Brexit Won’t Change Treatment of Data

The Brexit caught many people unaware and forced them to think through some digital media issues in rather a hurry. The UK has just released new privacy and security guidelines– based on the UK’s understanding of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)– that will take effect in 2018, the year the Brexit is actually supposed to occur. The UK and EU have already diverged from the US by requiring all sites that use cookies to announce the policy on first visit.

British data security experts have told us privately that most visitors just click right through and accept the use of cookies, however. The practice of announcing that a site uses cookies is becoming more widespread in the US as well, and does not seem to be the reason the US is seeing the spread of ad blocking.

So cookies are not the major issue: then what are the important components? For the US, the most important issue seems to be on the security side, as US and state regulators try to prevent hacking and release of potentially personal information.  One of the problems with the US is that security is handled by the states. And the US first amendment freedoms create issues with the EU’s laws.

The EU comes at privacy and security by emphasizing the privacy side — the right of individuals to control their own data, and a prohibition against collecting data without a “legitimate purpose.” It also provides no threshold for the right to be forgotten, which is in direct conflict with the freedom of speech guarantees in the US.

If you then throw in the Brexit, the UK, which is the center of digital publishing and advertising in the EU, would have much to do complying on the one hand with US regulations and on the other with EU laws, especially when dealing with so many other potentially difficult issues.

Thus, the UK is expected to ignore the Brexit for purposes of data privacy and security, and throw its lot in permanently with the EU. It makes little sense to do otherwise, as for the next two years the UK will have to go along with everything the EU is doing to get ready for the new regulation anyway.

Moreover, companies that offer cloud-based services, no matter where they are based, will have to comply with the most stringent regulations or face fines.

What do these new regulations mean for publishers and marketers? Well, for starters the new regulations are predicted to create 28,000 new Chief Privacy Officer jobs over the next two years. Both publishers and marketers will have this window of opportunity to figure out how to serve their own ends and still operate within the EU’s GDPR.

 

 

Publishers: Don’t Abandon London Just Yet

In Europe, unlike in America, most of the scary talk isn’t about Facebook eating into the revenues of publishers, but rather of the Brexit and what it means for London as an advertising and media capital in the future.  Common wisdom and many publications have it that media companies will seek to leave London so that they can do business with the rest of the European Union after England leaves. However that involves seeing into the future in a way none of us can. Even if England does leave the EU, things won’t change over night.

We would like to suggest here that the biggest barrier to moving media companies and ad agencies is inertia. It just simply isn’t that easy for a company to change its European base,  especially with European employment laws. Nor is creative talent willing to pick up their families and move. Moreover.  people seem to have forgotten that the Brexit will not take place immediately and may simply not take place at all. It does, after all, take a vote of Parliament. No one here thinks that will happen very soon.

Politically it is very complicated in London right now, with power in both parties changing hands. To an outsider, it seems as if no one want to take the consequences of the referendum.

It will take a while for the new leadership to figure out what to do about what was voted on, and the prevailing opinion is that the politicians will drag their feet as no one wants to trigger the clock on leaving the EU just yet.

Thus our best advice both to publishers and to  agencies is not to do anything too quickly, but to see how all this settles out before causing more disruption than there already is in the industry. There is enough to think about with Facebook constantly tuning the algorithm for its newsfeed, this time in a direction away from publisher revenues, and with Snapchat emerging as a competitor for the attention of Millennials. We in the media industry should stick to our knitting until the politics sorts out.

Anti-Adblock Software Violates Privacy, Advocates Say

While the advertisers and their agencies were partying on the yachts rented by ad tech companies at Cannes, publishers were wondering how they were going to survive the latest changes in the chameleon-like digital media industry. If  you are a publisher and you want to know where your next blow to the chin will come from, it is probably from privacy advocates.

The response to the challenge before this,  the 100+ million users who have downloaded ad blockers, has been all over the map so far. The largest ad blocking extension, Ad Block Plus, an open source project, itself claims a billion downloads and 100 million users. What’s a poor publisher to do?

Some publications, like Forbes, offer visitors who use ad blockers an “ad-lite” experience if the whitelist the site. Others, like Wired, ask the reader to be a good guy and remember that publishers need ad revenue to stay in business. Still others are simply refusing to serve content to visitors who have installed ad blockers, and are running scripts on their pages to detect such visitors and repel them.

As a response to the anti-ad blocking movement, privacy advocates have begun to counter that scanning to see if a user has an ad blocker installed violates privacy. One of those advocates, Alexander Hanff, has been telling just this to European regulators.

In May he sent a cease and desist letter to technology media company IDG UK, one of the many publishers he claims violates his right to privacy (and European laws) by scanning his machine for adblockers without his permission. He plans to expand his cease and desist campaign in the coming months to publishers in almost a dozen countries, including France, Estonia, The Netherlands, Poland, Germany, and Sweden.

Hanff, CEO of the security firm Think Privacy,

says he’s sympathetic to publishers struggles’ with adblocking, but argues that it’s their reliance on third-party advertisers and the ad ecosystem that’s the real issue. “The problem is ad blocking is being seen as a disease, when in reality it’s the symptom of one: the advertising on their pages.”

Hanff’s campaign is based on his interpretation of article 5.3 of the European Union’s 2009 ePrivacy Directive, known as the “Cookie Law,” which says that readers must give consent before publishers can store or access information stored on their devices. Scanning a user’s system to see if they’re using an adblocker, in Hanff’s view, violates that provision.

IAB Europe has decided to release its own set of guidelines for ad block detection that do not violate privacy guidelines. It  believes not all ad block detection violates privacy.

The ad block wars have just escalated another step and most publishers are just taking it one day at a time.

 

Agencies Forced by Trends to Seek New Models

June was not  the most fortuitous month for advertising agencies. Not only did the Association of National Advertisers’ report on business transparency issues in our media buying ecosystem come out, tagging most of the big players with  borderline unethical if not illegal practices like kickbacks, but Kevin Kelly’s new book “The Inevitable,”  published on June 9, talks about getting rid of advertising agencies altogether and having marketers just pay influencers to promote their products, cutting out both agencies and publishers.

You will need to know the reasoning behind that position.

First, who is Kevin Kelly? Kelly is a very well-known and respected tech thinker, one of the founders of Wired magazine.  In this latest book he talks about a dozen trends  that we should embrace rather then resist, because they are going to be very important in the next couple of decades. Of course there are the usual suspects like artificial intelligence and robots, But Kelly also talks about changes in intellectual property rights since the dawn of the Internet. He characterizes the Internet as a gigantic copying machine capable  and laughs at our thinking we could impose digital rights management on intellectual property  online.

He also talks about the incredible proliferation of content spawned by the Internet, and the fact that the most valuable commodity today isn’t content  — it’s attention from consumers who are confronted by an almost overwhelming variety of it. So why should we have to pay for it ?

Kelly suggests that in a future of limitless content the advertising model may well be flipped on its head, and consumers would be paid directly to watch ads and try products without agencies as intermediaries. Or, in another variation, publishers would choose the ads on their pages and could even craft a publication just by stringing together really cool ads:

The simple idea is that you can craft a publication, or a reading/viewing experience, primarily by choosing and sequencing ads. Selecting the right cool ads — not merely cool content — is the attraction. Not just tiny adsense text ad boxes, but full page ads, or even commercials inside widgets. When I was part of the team making Wired magazine a decade ago, half the battle at launch was landing the right cool ads. We had to convince the advertisers to join (and pay) us. But what if we could just choose the cool ads we wanted, without having to ask permission? What if we could simply harvest the the best ads (measured by any metric we choose) and were paid for the ones we ran according to the traffic we brought to them?

In either of these new models, advertisers would not control where their ads appeared and thus the role of the traditional agency would be over.

Facebook’s FAN Will Serve Ads to Non-Users

Once again, Facebook has signaled its power in the ad tech business. After sunsetting Live Rail and its ad exchange, the social network-cum-media company has now gone all in on the Facebook Audience Network, designed to reach people who do not have Facebook accounts but look like similar audiences that do.

On the face of it, this is a good idea. But we wonder if it’s really as good as Facebook expects. There is actually a question on Quora, the well-regarded question and answer site, that gives us insight into what kinds of people don’t have Facebook accounts.

The foremost reason, which has had almost 2 million views, is that Facebook is a time suck. The second reason, not unexpected, is a concern for privacy and having one’s information out all over the internet. And the third reason is reject a Facebook account is lack of regular internet access.

Given these three reasons, we wonder whether this kind of targeting, as described by Adam Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of ads and business platforms, “the company hopes to use its interest-based data to target ads to lookalike audiences who don’t have Facebook accounts. It also hopes to use its “like” button to serve ads based on the content that engages people. ”

Bosworth admits that he doesn’t yet know how well this expansion of the total addressable market will work for Facebook, so the company is going to roll it out slowly. He feels he has the right tools to evaluate  whether he is adding value for publishers. But how will he test the impact on non-users of ads they didn’t expect? And how will he prevent fraud, once the ads get out into a broader market?

When companies are as large and powerful as Facebook is, they tend to think they have the engineering resources to deal with these questions. Our take on it is that Facebook is trying to get younger users, who seem to favor Snapchat, involved in Facebook’s ad network. This, however, is somewhat dangerous, because people under 13 do participate in Snapchat, while Facebook does not allow them to open accounts.

We are already beginning to recognize that Facebook is much more than a social network. Recently, because of the flap about liberal v. conservative views, we began to see Facebook as a media company. And now, if the FAN network succeeds, we may also have to think of it as an ad server.

What does Google think?

 

 

New Consumer-Driven Ad Standards Proposed

Will changes to the advertising industry come from within, or from outside? Doc Searls, one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto (markets are conversations) and the founder of the VRM (vendor relations management) movement) and a well-known privacy and security expert, Mary Hodder, are about to release what they call a “term,” which amounts to a set of choices consumers can make about what ads they want to see.

They have convened a group of high quality publishers and ad tech companies, including the ad blocker software developers, and are rolling out a set of choices consumers will be able to make about what ads they see. Once the consumer says “I want only ads that don’t track me,” or “I want only brand ads,” the publisher will serve ads according to the individual consumers’ choice.

This puts the responsibility on the publisher to comply, and on the ad blocking software maker to implement correctly. It’s for people who have already said they want to block certain ads, in an effort to make sure they don’t block ALL ads and force the escalation of the ad blocking/anti-ad blocking war that threatens to cause more turbulence in the industry.

As for advertisers, who want more and more data, and are the ones who encourage tracking (and the ones who pay the bills), they will be asked to accept these limitations on how far they can stalk consumers who have already chosen to download ad blockers.

This same “term” will also be presented at the United Nations this week, in an effort to bring it in line with what the EU and other global entities have already enacted with regard to data privacy.

The TL;DR here is that programmatic and RTB will not vanish, but retargeting will cease, for everyone, just as popups did ten years ago. And most advertising will be brand advertising, for which ultra-tracking is not necessary.

In a way, this is just “back to the future,” for advertisers, who got carried away with metrics and forgot they were dealing with human beings.

ZEDO SELECTED FOR OTA HONOR ROLL FOR FOURTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR

ZEDO OTA Award

The NYC ZEDO Team with its Award

14 June 2016, NYC — ZEDO, INC., the leading private end-to-end platform for innovative advertising formats, has announced it has qualified for the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) 2016 Online Trust Honor Roll for the fourth consecutive year. This honor demonstrates excellence in data security, responsible privacy practices and overall commitment to consumer protection, helping to protect customers from increased threats of cybercriminals and abusive privacy practices. This year saw a dramatically higher bar for selection.

OTA, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with industry leaders to enhance online trust, completed comprehensive audits analyzing more than 1,000 domains and privacy policies, including approximately 100,000 web pages and more than 500 million emails for this report. The composite analysis included over two-dozen attributes focusing on 1) site & server security, 2) domain, brand, email and consumer protection and 3) privacy policy and practices. In addition to the in-depth analysis of their web sites, Domain Name Systems (DNS), outbound emails, and public records were analyzed for recent data breach incidents and FTC settlements. Key sectors audited include the Internet Retailer Top 500, FDIC 100, Top 100 Consumer Services, Top Media / Content sites, as well as OTA members and consumer facing US government sites.

“We are proud to once again recognize ZEDO for its leadership and commitment to working with peers, the industry and competitors to embrace consumer protection and embrace their right to privacy,” said Craig Spiezle. “ZEDO plays an incredibly important role in the advertising supply chain helping increase the integrity and trust of online advertising.”

“ZEDO strives to make security and privacy of its customers’ data a top priority.” stated Roy De Souza, ZEDO CEO. “We fully support the OTA’s guidelines, and we also adhere to industry guidelines for data protection. Trust is the foundation of the Internet and we need to work together moving from a compliance mindset to one of being stewards of consumer data.”

Nearly 1,000 companies comprise the Honor Roll, including ZEDO. The report indicates that company size and/or sales are not true measures of the level of security and privacy a company implements. “All companies are equally evaluated by the same criteria regardless of size. We have seen large e-retailers with significant sales fail to make the Honor Roll; conversely we have seen small to mid-size companies taking top grades,” said Spiezle.

Started in 2008 as an effort to drive adoption of best practices, the objectives of the Honor Roll are to 1) recognize leadership and commitment to best practices which aid in the protection of online trust and confidence in online services, 2) Enable businesses to enhance their security, data protection and privacy practices, 3) Move from compliance to stewardship, demonstrating support of meaningful self-regulation, and 4) Promote security & privacy as part of a company’s brand promise and value proposition.

“We are honored to be recognized for the measures we take around security and responsibility for our customers,” said De Souza. “We feel an enormous responsibility to provide protection and security for our customers.”

To review the full 2016 Honor Roll report, please download a free copy.

ABOUT The Online Trust Alliance (OTA)

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) is a member-based, non-profit representing the global internet ecosystem – including the public and private sectors. OTA’s mission is to develop and advocate best practices and public policy which mitigate emerging privacy and security threats while enhancing online trust, innovation and the vitality of the digital economy. OTA is committed to the protection of critical infrastructure, balanced legislation and data protection through the promotion of best practices, benchmark reporting, and self-regulation. For more information, visit: https://otalliance.org

ABOUT ZEDO

ZEDO, Inc. is a platform offering clever, proprietary high impact formats that help publishers get new revenue. Known for technical innovation and ability to scale, ZEDO offers publishers products and services – including ad serving – and rich media formats with 99% viewable impressions. ZEDO also serves advertisers through ZINC, a suite of high impact formats including video and native ads on premium sites. Founded in 1999, ZEDO is headquartered in New York, with offices

In San Francisco and Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Seattle and Phoenix. As the largest independent ad technology player, the company is distinguished by its global reach and cosmopolitan market knowledge.

 

 

Verified by TAG Gains Momentum

If you’ve been in the ad tech industry, you know that until a couple of years ago, although many people knew the industry contained fraud, nobody was really incentivized to do anything about it. And then, suddenly, the lights came on for the advertisers, who realized they were footing the bill for some of these fraudulent ads, and for the consumers, who realized that they were paying for ad fraud in malware and data costs. Now, with the new Verified by Tag initiative, ad fraud is at the top of everyone’s list of things to erase.

A survey conducted by E&Y for IAB revealed that in the $52b ad industry, $8.2 billion can be saved each year if the digital advertising industry worked together to eradicate corruption across the supply chain. Invalid and fraudulent traffic takes $4.6 billion out, internet piracy takes $2.5 billion, and malvertising takes $1.1 billion. Thus, every responsible company has a role to play in combatting fraud.

Last year, IAB created the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). TAG is creating a meaningful seal of approval system for the digital ad ecosystem; it wants to be the leading organization promoting transparency. Because it was formed at precisely the right time, TAG has a fancy board composed of all the big players, from the Association of National Advertisers to  Mondelez to Facebook.

We’ve been working on the business transparency committee, which is developing the registration and payment ID procedures. We have also been working on incorporating the new Inventory Quality Guidelines. At present, companies can still self-attest about their inventory quality, but that’s going to change in the future, with independent audits replacing self-attestation. We want to be ready.

The TAG registry is a closed system of supply chain participants that demonstrate a commitment to higher standards of transparency. It’s called “Verified by TAG.”   “Verified by TAG” is the gateway to all of TAG’s other certifications, tools, and working groups.

We sent our Compliance Officer through a training program at which she was shown how to create a “Description of Methodology” for what processes, procedures, and controls we have in place to assure that our inventory is clean when it enters our platform, and the transaction between buyer, seller, and any intermediary who might be involved, is completely transparent.

We’re excited that the industry has finally come to recognize the importance of good business practices, even though this will entail a lot of work for our team as we increase the sophistication of our detection and reporting tools.

 

 

Facebook Moves Toward Ads in Messenger

“I don’t think ads are the right way to monetize messaging,” said Mark Zuckerberg on an analyst call two years ago.  But that was in reference to What’sApp, which he bought. On Messenger, which he built, he apparently does plan to run ads eventually .

Fortunately for the 800 million of us who use Messenger every day, it will involve a bit of work for brands to begin to advertise. First they will have to get us to engage with them. I’m guessing this would have happened more surreptitiously if a document Facebook sent to its largest advertisers hadn’t been leaked. In the document, Facebook revealed that it would only allow brands to send messages to people who had already communicated with the brand.

That’s not very different from the way Pages works; if a user posts on a page, the brand is “allowed” to communicate back. And last March, Facebook began to allow brands to give customers receipts for e-commerce purchases through Messenger, as well as to provide customer service. The camel’s nose has gone way under the tent.

But here is what’s been happening in the background, according to Tech Crunch:

Over the following months, Facebook enhanced chat capabilities for businesses by letting them show a big “Send Message” or “Contact Us” button on their Page, create saved replies, show a badge that grades them on how fast they respond, and reply to wall posts with private messages.

Facebook also recently introduced “Click To Message” News Feed ads that let businesses pay to get people to chat with them. Plus, it’s been secretly testing a chat bot platform that allows developers to create e-commerce experiences and personal assistants within Messenger.

 

There seems to be a realization here that messaging will be the new operating system for mobile, and that consumers want to be able to do as much through their messaging apps as possible. The market leader here is WeChat, the dominant player in China, which allows users to send cash, make calls,hail cabs and make purchases. As of last summer, ten million apps had been built for the platform.

Facebook has responded: 

Earlier this year, Facebook rolled out a bunch of new features for its Messenger platform. In March, Facebook announced Messenger Platform — which lets developers build more functionality and features directly into the Messenger app (being able to track your packages in-app, for example, or embedding media and GIFs into your messages).

In addition, you can now send your friends real money, make free voice calls, and effectively use Facebook as a mapping service from inside its Messenger app.

So Facebook has been making it easier and easier for brands and users to have a conversation, in preparation for the day when it will launch ads in Messenger. You will start to receive them, and you may never know why.

 

 

Malvertising Raises Questions About Ad Blocking

ota-2015-logoA recent Buzzfeed article totals up the recent loss of jobs in digital media as publications struggle to adjust to new market forces. Because of the dominance of Facebook and Snapchat, media organizations that once hoped to make it at scale have cut back to pursue niches, which we believe is the best strategy for the present. But even niche publications have to contend with malvertising and poor delivery of ads to mobile devices.

However, other headwinds are also hitting the publishing industry. On Medium this week Rob Leathern, long-time digital advertising critic, wrote that crummy ads (he used other language) cost iPhone users $8 billion in data charges last year.

We ran across 7 websites for 3 minutes, and loaded 1712 URLs on average, whereas the top 10 blockers on average needed just 493 calls to render all the content and images on these sites -> this means that advertising technology accounts for 71% (1,228 hidden items loaded) what loads on your mobile phone in an average web session! I think that’s just crazy, and hard to justify for the small amount of advertising revenue most sites are making off of us.

Focus on the last sentence. Consumers are spending the money for data, advertisers are paying for ads, but publishers are still not making any money. Fortunately, mobile consumers are still not blocking ads in the numbers desktop consumers are, and we can fix this problem if we hurry.

We’ve been heavily involved in the Online Trust Association (OTA) for years, and we are working on the Advertising Integrity Committee this year.  This morning the organization sent around an article about a massive malware infestation in the Netherlands:

As of Monday, at least 288 websites had been infected with malvertising, exposing millions to poisoned ads.

One example of how far its tentacles have reached: the campaign has hit Nu.nl, the most-visited Dutch-language news portal.

Nu.nl alone is estimated to have scored more than 50 million visitors in March, according to Tech Week Europe.

Other affected sites include eBay-style service Marktplaats.nl and well-known news and culture sites, according to Fox-IT.

The campaign originated in an advertising platform used by the affected sites

OTA is worried that consumers might respond to this by blocking ads, which the organization does not feel is a suitable solution, because most ad blocking software is itself untrustworthy. Most of it has white lists or allow lists that do not block advertising and are increasingly being used by consumers as ad vectors.

In our own case, we have created a private buying platform for our publishers that does not admit malware and is very closely monitored to refuse to serve questionable sites.  Working with both the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the OTA, we’re engaged in being as much a part of the solution as we can.  We can only do our best to lure back angry consumers.