AdTech Matures As an Industry


The Wild West is over in advertising technology. We’re about to see a bloodbath, in which only the truly good guys will survive. By good guys, I mean companies that actually perform a useful function for either advertisers or publishers without subjecting site visitors to a barrage of  ad fraud, spam, malware, and unwanted ads.

ZEDO solves these problems by providing agency trading desks with an end to end platform — a direct (secure) pipe from the ATD to the publisher pages.  Our three-part ad stack admits no third parties who can introduce bad stuff. ATDs log into our buying platform, and go to our private exchange only for our unique ad formats. Our formats are built for differentiation and performance. On the supply side, the supply comes only from our ZEDO publisher ad server, and we create all the impressions on the publication’s page. We don’t buy from anyone so nothing bad can be introduced.
ATDs love this clean end to end platform. Our control over the whole supply chain allows us to innovate instantly, which we do. We have the best formats in the industry, and they get better every month. We launch 2-3 new formats every year. ATDs love the fantastic formats and clean supply chain, because it is like the days before advertising got so complicated.

When the first online ads appeared in 1994 the geeks had all the control, because neither the advertisers nor the publishers understood how online advertising  worked. They couldn’t serve make an ad appear on a digital site without an intermediary who knew how things worked. Early online banner ads were effective, so the industry to supply them grew quickly in response to marketer demand. However, in the ensuing 20 years, the industry almost intentionally tried to obfuscate its operations, introducing more and more complex technological solutions to the simple problem of trade — buying and selling — which is almost as old as human existence. And now online ads are hated, and in extreme cases blocked entirely, with 25% of the population running some kind of ad blocker.

This threatens the traditional free content ecosystem, which has existed for hundreds of years with newspapers, magazines, and TV networks producing content for which visitors are accustomed not to pay. Without advertising, there’s no business model for free content.

But as one person said on an industry call I participated in recently, “this industry seems determined to self-destruct.  We’ve been so disrespectful of users — forcing invasive, noisy, deceptive ads in front of them without regard to their experience — and until now, they’ve had no means to have any response.”

Never mind the user. The industry as also failed to respect the entity that pays the bills, the advertiser.

Now, a number of initiatives have coalesced to force the ad tech industry to change its ways.

The first is Do Not Track, a standard web browser setting that allows users to avoid sharing their browsing behavior with advertisers. Chrome, Firefox and Safari already have Do Not Track capabilities built in, but users have to choose them; they’re not the default. Many users don’t know they exist, and industry-led initiatives to prevent the widespread use of Do Not Track have had the unintended consequence of fostering the use of ad blocking software.  For a couple of years now the industry failed to come up with a satisfactory compromise between the user and its own need to keep revenue flowing.

Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has stepped in to propose a code of conduct for online publishers. The EFF calls this a compromise that allows consumers to avoid tracking and still allows publishers to get revenue from online advertising. We are in the process of getting a briefing to further understand how we as a company can help our publisher partners participate in this initiative without losing revenue. Like everything else in ad tech, this is complicated.

The second, the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), is an industry initiative that focuses on click fraud, piracy, deceptive advertising, and malvertising. Its goal is to create a clean supply chain in the industry. In its latest press release, the TAG announced a new program to block illegitimate and non-human ad traffic originating from data centers. It will use Google’s database of data center IP addresses and enhance it based upon broader industry intelligence. Other companies joining this phase of the project include Dstillery, Facebook, MediaMath, Quantcast, Rubicon Project, The Trade Desk, TubeMogul, and Yahoo.

Next, Ad Block Plus, one of the largest distributors of ad blocking software, has issued an acceptable ads manifesto which explains its criteria for acceptable ads and how to apply for whitelisting. Since it is focused on static ads and most ads today are video, this is going to be interesting. It’s even more interesting as more and more advertising falls under the category of “native.”

And last, Yahoo’s recent malware attack has forced the industry to deprecate the use of Adobe Flash to deliver ads. Flash seems to be one of the riskiest content frameworks for delivering ads.

These and other developments are expected to fundamentally alter the landscape for people who have been making money by assuming both buyers and sellers of advertising are still ignorant. It ain’t necessarily so.







Publishers Combine for Larger Audiences

The recent merger of 17-month-old Recode with Vox Media, owners of The Verge, coupled with the recent demise of GigaOm, another respected tech industry publication, raises the question of survival for independent publications with niche audiences.  In actuality, the idea of trade industry networks that support niche publications isn’t new; print publications long ago combined into industry networks the size of IDG or  AdvancePublications. Perhaps the little guy can’t survive alone.

In fact, Vox Media itself, which is venture-funded, may end up being part of Comcast, which was an investor in both Recode and Vox.

The push toward larger and larger digital media networks is driven by the changing vagaries of the advertising market. This year alone publishers have had to re-design their sites for viewability as large marketing budgets like those of GroupM began to insist on 100% viewability as a metric. Just as publishers got slightly comfortable with the concept of being paid only for viewable impressions rather than impressions served, another change came over the horizon: Facebook’s trial with nine publishers who will publish directly to the Facebook site rather than on their own. This product, called Instant Articles by Facebook, is being tested by sites that include Buzzfeed, NBC News, Atlantic,  the New York Times, and National Geographic.

On the face of it, giving up traffic to Facebook seems counterproductive or at least counterintuitive. However, if you think about the fact that Facebook and Google already control 80% of the digital advertising dollars, you can see why a publisher might consider it, especially in the beginning when publishers are being allowed to keep all of the ad revenue they generate on Facebook’s site. No one, by the way, thinks this will last.

The best analysis of why publishing on Facebook was inevitable for even the biggest independent publishers is given by Newsosaur:

Superior mobile prowess.In addition to the sheer size of its audience, Facebook has mastered the art and science of mobile publishing better than almost anyone. In the first quarter of this year, the company reported, 65% of its traffic and 73% of its ad revenues came from such highly optimized mobile sites as its Paper app. 

Superior audience engagement. Based on the amount of time people spend on Facebook, it is fair to say its users are considerably more passionate about the service than the visitors to a typical news site. According to Alexa.Com, the average user spends 18.4 minutes per day on Facebook, as compared with 9.5 minutes at the New York Times, 6.4 minutes at NBC News and 5.4 minutes at BuzzFeed.  

Superior customer data.Because enthusiastic users frequently and liberally update the site with a plethora of personal data, Facebook knows more intimate and accurate details about more people than any company in the world. The information is updated dynamically in real time, as people report everything from their favorite new song to the jeans they want to buy to the fact they will have a baby in six months.  

Superior ad intelligence.Facebook enables advertisers to target messages with heretofore unprecedented precision, thanks not only to the rich information supplied by users but also by analyzing information captured from the friends in their networks.  The ad-intel is supplemented with location data acquired from Facebook’s popular mobile services. 

Superior content targeting. In the same way data is used to target commercial messages, Facebook has the capability to match the right content with the right user by monitoring her searches and media consumption. If Facebook sees that someone likes cooking Italian food, it can slip relevant recipes from the NYT food page into her news feed, paired conveniently with an ad for a pasta maker. When Facebook recognizes that a bride is planning a honeymoon in Florida, it can send her travel videos embedded with customized hotel offers. 

The Newsosaur blog is written by Alan Mutter, a former journalist, editor, and CEO of several tech startups, who now serves as a consultant to the media industry. Because of his position at the intersection of media and technology, he probably has the best perspective on what’s ahead for publishers — even the Buzzfeeds of the world.

Fraud and Lack of Viewability Are Not the Same

It’s frightening how poorly the trade pubs in the advertising industry have dealt with the current big issues of viewability and ad fraud. Almost all of the journalists have conflated the two concerns, leading to unrealistic expectations of what should be done to remedy each. At the very least, we in the industry ought to recognize that they are two different problems. It’s a lot easier to fix viewability issues than it is to combat ad fraud, because fraud largely comes from outside the industry.

Marketers are a little smarter about it than the media. In a recent Ad Age survey, 61% were concerned about paying for ad fraud, but 87% were concerned with viewability. The marketers seemed to understand that there’s only so much we can do about ad fraud, because it isn’t always committed by someone in the ecosystem.

What’s the difference between fraud and viewability?
The commission of fraud is intentional; fraudulent publishers send people or bots to click on ads, forcing the marketer to pay for the ads.  Or they create sites that aggregate large amounts of traffic in ways that don’t match the vision for a brand. Porn sites are an example, of this. They may draw 18-25 year old males, but if you were a consumer brand you might not want your ad to appear there.  But outside of the advertising industry, malware can also be embedded in ads, sometimes by cyberterrorists. For example, cryptoware ransomware was found embedded in fake Hugo Boss ads running on premium sites recently. The ads were delivered through RTB, on the Engage:BDR ad network. But they were placed by criminals, not advertisers or publishers.
Viewability problems , on the other hand, are mostly unintentional: in a real time bidding environment, ads can be served so quickly that they literally step on one another and the site visitor doesn’t even see the ad. Many other things can influence viewability, including the design of a publisher site, the size of the ad, how the ad is served, and the ad’s format. Native, large format, or high impact ads don’t have a problem with viewability. Most good publishers measure viewability using a partner like DoubleVerify or comScore and strive to make sure their ads are viewable.
What led these two problems to be conflated was the realization on the part of marketers that despite the introduction of an entire new set of partners between the advertiser and the publisher, advertiser ROI was still not what it should have been for the dollars spent. Can anyone say “creative“?

For Publishers, Sharing Data with Users Promotes Engagement

Consumers are beginning to believe they’re being stalked by marketers. That good news is that targeting has become good enough for people to notice it. The bad news is that it isn’t yet good enough for them to enjoy it. Really good targeting would only deliver ads when and where they are useful. This is the Holy Grail of marketing. Until we get there, more data transparency would fill the gap, because it would explain to consumers why they have been chosen to receive a certain specific campaign. This is a valuable lesson for publishers to learn: giving customers back their data will help them become more engaged with your site.

In a recent Venture Beat article,  the Brent Dykes of Adobe points out that when the music site Pandora shared with him what his behavior was in the past month, it encouraged him to listen to the service again:

I recently caught a small glimpse of the data loop’s potential when I received an interesting email from Pandora Radio. I’m an avid user of their online music service, and they regularly send me various promotional emails. Often these emails feature different artists or upgrade offers, but the one that caught my attention was a monthly email that shared three simple data points:

  1. How many songs I had listened to the previous month (214)
  2. How many songs I had given a thumbs-up rating (6)
  3. What my favorite music channel was (Thievery Corporation)

Besides these three insights, there were no fancy charts, just a question — “What will you do this month?” — and a prominent “Listen Now” button.

LinkedIn offers a similar services that tells people how many users have looked at their profiles. Knowing someone looks at your profile motivates you to keep it up-to-date, and to return to LinkedIn. Facebook offers similar information about the organic reach of its pages — a stat that angers people who now realize they have to pay for advertising, but allows Facebook to monetize more effectively.

Because, you see, businesses have been getting analytics for a long time. It doesn’t seem fair that consumers should not get equal treatment. The only time we, as individuals, customarily receive analytics is when we’ve read the last of the ten free monthly articles on the New York Times, for example. And those serve the publisher, not the consumer. Why wouldn’t I rather know that I’ve read fifteen articles on business and nothing on world events, or vice versa?  If I had that information, perhaps I’d double down, or alter my habits? Either way, I deserve to know, and if I change my pattern when it is called to my attention, that just gives the publisher a more rounded vision of who I am and how I use the site. Ultimately, it makes the targeting more precise, and strengthens my relationship with the company.

…data is an unlimited resource that will only expand with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). As data becomes more pervasive, a healthy data loop with brands will be expected and rewarded by increasingly data-savvy consumers. It’s no longer just about how your company can extract valuable insights from your customer data, but how the data can create value for your customers. It’s time to start planning how your firm can embrace the bi-directional sharing of information and master the emerging data loop.

In an effort to deliver better data to our publisher partners that they can share with their visitors, we have strengthened our reporting tools recently, and we’ve updated our internal dashboard interface.



Changing Trends in High Impact Advertising

Everybody  is jumping into the digital rat race to grab a slice of the advertising pie. But with display advertising still doing nothing truly high impact, all big brand advertisers still prefer TV. Sometimes they choose social (Facebook) advertising medium but often they don’t run advertising on the Internet at all.

Those who have been in the online advertising industry for more than a decade all agree that brand advertisers in India don’t believe much in Internet advertising. Therefore it is time Internet advertising companies improve this by developing new innovate advertising opportunities – that have high impact and are as good as TV advertising.

A good example of a new high impact digital advertising opportunity is the Full Screen TV Ad on the web, where the TV Commercial spreads across the screen. It looks just like a TVC on the TV. It not only grabs the users’ attention but the ad performance is also very high, the reason why it is called high impact advertising.

The CTR of standard banners is officially 0.09% in India (or maybe lower). However, full screen TV Ads on the web are better value for money. If numbers speak volumes than it would only be fair to compare the Impressions, Clicks and CTR between standard banner ads and running Full Screen TV Commercials on the web.

Advertisers like this and are increasingly running campaigns on this path-breaking innovation which guarantees high impact, complete engagement, branding and higher viewability. More and more TV advertisers are looking at online advertising to widen their reach. High impact ad formats have opened up a gamut of supply for the advertisers and agencies, who are advertising primarily on TV. Advertisers see this as the right time to reach India and make a higher impact with their existing, often award winning TV Commercials.


Publishers Can Use Their Own Data to Target Content

In just one short year, mobile has propelled itself from second screen to first. The plethora of large screen smartphone models, even in China and India has brought millions of consumers off the couch or into the connected world. Many of those mobile users check their phones 150 times a day. What an amazing opportunity for marketers to deliver messages, as savvy advertisers already know.  But what does this mean for publishers?

For publishers, it means yet another year of change, but this year is more likely to be a year of opportunity. Like advertisers, publishers now have more and better data about their visitors. And in this environment, publishers should act like advertisers; they should market for visitors in much the same way advertisers do, by targeting content.  And by offering their data to advertisers seeking their audiences. But don’t worry; this won’t create more work for publishers, because as with advertising, this kind of targeting can be done programmatically, through automated workflows. Publishers have already begun to develop their own data management resources for targeting in house rather than using outside suppliers, and MediaPost thinks

…there will  be a focus on programmatic targeting of content, not just ads.  Although programmatic targeting of advertising is now very common for brands and advertisers, in 2015, we’ll see a critical mass of publishers begin to leverage behavioral data to programmatically targeted content to optimize experiences for users on publishers’ sites. Content will be personalized and specifically aimed at individual consumers on websites and blog pages, similar to the way ads have been targeted until now. Medium-to-large sized publishers will also invest in data management platforms and in-house programmatic resources.

For publishers this also means less focus on the home page, because that might not be where the traffic comes from. Some publishers, such as news, weather, and sports  are quite successful with apps, and can target contextually through location awareness; others, like Buzzfeed, target through declared interests. Still others are investing in content based on already-available data.

Better use of data for targeting by publishers will draw advertisers and publishers closer again, after years of being forced apart by ad tech startups who stood in the middle and performed the function of interpreting the publishers’ and the advertisers’ data to each other. Only if that closeness leads to more accurate contextual, rather than just demographic or psychographic, targeting will advertisers be able to measure the ROI of their ads and their content marketing with a specific publisher.


Podcasts: Are They the Next New Publishing Platform?

Serial is probably the most widely listened to podcast in history, and advertisers have found many ways to become part of its success. In addition to the MailChimp audio ads we have certainly heard if we listened to Serial, there are display ads on podcatching aggregators like Stitcher, and audio versions of pre-roll as well. podcasting publishers are gearing up for a good advertising year in 2015.

Although podcasts have been around for a relatively long time in internet time, they haven’t become popular until this year. NPR has made them part of its online presence, but since NPR doesn’t depend on advertising in the ordinary sense for its support (I’d say it is more of a sponsorship model),  even the most highly listened-to podcasts haven’t caught the attention of advertisers.

Until now. In 2015, we believe that online publishers will have more podcasts as well as videos, and there will be an opportunity for advertisers to participate. Although podcasts now scarcely make a dent in radio’s audience, they will. It’s just like when video first came online and advertisers thought people would never watch videos longer than a minute or two. As things become more mobile, all of this changes, and all bets are off. As early adopters like Adam Sachs, CEO of Midroll Media, parent company of podcast network Earwolf has said, “podcast ads work really well.”  podcast ad-sales network Midroll. Sachs also runs his own postcast ad sales network

As a long time listener to Leo laPorte’s podcasts on, we know that podcast ads aren’t like other ads, because they are very often native ads. They are read by the hosts in the tone and the style of the show, and often the podcasters use the products they are talking about in the ads.  The podcast ad format is more like an in-stream ad. Realistically, it’s also pretty difficult to skip past a podcast ad.

That’s why we believe that podcast ads will catch on in 2015, and we are hoping our publisher partners will jump on these new formats for native ads on mobile. We’ve got a technical team working on formats for podcast ads, and we’d love your input.


Business Models for Publishing in 2015

Expect the roller coaster ride of ad revenues to continue, but to get smoother in 2015, especially for publishers who invest in a better mobile experience for their users and better ways to incorporate video into their sites.

The long awaited digital ad budgets are finally increasing. Ad budgets are shifting to digital faster and faster as brands who missed the digital desktop because they depended on TV for branding have discovered that their customers may not have cut the cord literally, but they’ve cut it figuratively — by the end of 2014, consumers were watching more video online than they were on TV. That’s going to continue in 2015.

2015 will indeed be the year of video. It will also be the year of mobile. And it will also be the year of native (whatever that may mean). Many publishers have already begun to establish digital content creation departments through which they generate content for advertisers. Even the venerable New York Times went native toward the end of 2014. These changes won’t go away.

Premium sites already know this;  Yahoo has been active acquiring mobile technologies and although its overall ad revenues may be flat, its mobile revenues are growing. The New York Times is experimenting with native ads.

ZEDO has been busy developing high impact formats that advertisers love, and that will help publishers increase their eCPMS next year. Our formats drive CTRs that blow away the benchmarks, and though we believe that CTRs are an outdated metric that doesn’t really measure what consumers are doing, as long as advertisers continue to rely on them we will keep producing formats that drive better results.

We do believe, however, that the metric we will all be using by the end of 2015, although perhaps just experimentally, will be engagement. We will be measuring how long readers or viewers are spending on a page, with a video, with an ad, and that will eventually be used as a method for setting price.

This is a big shift away from direct response and back in the direction of brand advertising, which used to be the stronghold of TV. Now that viewers have shifted to video, new metrics such as completion rates and share ability will be more important.

Another big change in 2015 will be the attribution of traffic. More traffic will be “dark,” i.e. will arrive at your page through social media recommendations and social sharing than through organic search. This year, we will have to find metrics to manage that traffic so we can optimize for it. It may involve less emphasis on the home page and more on internal pages with shareable content.

One thing you can say about our industry: it’s no longer the staid, unchanging industry it used to be. For those of us who enjoy technology and love to rise to new challenges, publishing has become more interesting than ever.

ZEDO Advertising Technology Updates – October 2014

Ad Request Event for VAST

As the digital video advertising market becomes more sophisticated, new features and functionality are required to improve support for streaming ad display and reporting. We have added a new feature Ad Request which works in VAST Events.

The ‘Ad Request’ feature is activated by default for all VAST ads that are created, it will not be available in the VAST Compatible create ad form. The Ad Requests event reports on the number of requests made by the VAST tag to the ad server to fetch the video ad.

Users can view the Ad requests logged for an ad by pulling a VAST event report.

Click here for more information


Reach Report by Channel/Country ( Not yet released)

Apart from existing Campaign and Creative reach report, you can now pull a reach report by Country and Channel. The Country and Channel reach report is available along with all the existing parameters and can be pulled by month, week or day.

These reports will allow you to analyze how effective your reach is for a Country and Channel.


Frequency cap option for expandable

Expandable ads are rich media ads that can expand beyond the original size of the ad unit. The ad can expand automatically or when a user clicks or rolls over, and you can control that setting when you traffick the Ad in Zedo Server. However Auto expanding multiple times in a day for the same user, could create a negative impact. Hence to keep this in check we now provide frequency capping option that allows you to decide the number of times the Ad will Auto Expand in a day for a specific user.


Roadblock and Competing ad setup improved

We have improved the Roadblock and Competing ad setup by eliminating the steps to create pages by synchronizing the channels. You can now targeting roadblock ads directly to any channel and serve the ads on your webpage.


Ad status while creating an ad

You can now set a new ad to app (approved) status directly from the create ad form.

ZEDO Advertising Technology Updates – September 2014

Device Targeting

Users can now target ads to a specific device when trafficking ads. An option for “Device Targeting” is now available under “Targeting”.  A creative targeted to a specific Device will serve only on that Device. All major manufacturers/models are supported by this feature. If a creative is not targeted to any specific device than it will serve on all device.

Targeting by Device Manufacturer/Model

Apart from device, a user can target various devices based on different categories. At any given point of time, a user can target multiple manufacturers and categories.

Targeting by Device Category

Reach Report by Creative

Apart from existing campaign reach report a user can now pull a reach report by creative. The creative reach report is available along with all the existing parameters and can be pulled by month, week or day. Creative reach report will show creative wise reach. It will help to analyze how effective the reach of a creative was.