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IAB Rolls Out Blockchain Pilots

We’ve been around since before the dot com bust, which gives us the authority to predict the future (just kidding). But one thing we know, because it has been more a reality than a prediction in the past, is that the IAB under Randall Rothenberg is a powerful industry group that can drive change in our industry in the direction it chooses.

The last two big changes involved visibility metrics, and verification metrics. Now IAB Tech Lab is moving the industry in the direction of the block chain.

The blockchain, a technology that really isn’t new but became prominent when Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency built on its technology, briefly became a “store of value” last year. When we say store of value, we mean people began to invest in Bitcoin  the way they invest in gold or the stock market.

Although Bitcoin crashed, blockchain remains as an interesting option for the advertising industry because it is an “immutable, distributed ledger or record of transactions between a network of participants. The entries in the ledger are governed by pre-defined rules and validated by the network. The network can be public like bitcoin or private with only select participants.” IAB says there are benefits to the blockchain for advertising:

What are the benefits of blockchain in the media and advertising space?

  • Given the complex nature of the digital advertising supply chain, blockchain technology can offer greater efficiency, reliable and high-quality data.

  • Blockchains can create a more efficient medium by which two or more completely anonymous or semi-anonymous parties can complete various types of transactions potentially at a low cost.

  • Since blockchains are decentralized peer-to-peer networks, there is no single point of failure and no single access point for malicious hackers. Thus, it enhances safety and security for data.

  • This ability to keep a fully verifiable and immutable ledger or database that is available to all members of the blockchain provides a layer of trust and transparency that isn’t always available within media and advertising processes.

  • While blockchain will not cure all of ad tech’s problems, it can be beneficial in situations where there is censorship and both sides of the supply chain (i.e. publisher and advertiser) are disadvantaged by not having access to that information.

Here’s what is being tried, according to CMO Australia:

Members actively involved in the IAB program include FusionSeven, Kochava Labs, Lucidity and MetaX, with each piloting emerging blockchain-based offerings with supply chain partners including advertisers, agencies, DSPs, exchanges, publishers and technology vendors.

 

As an example, IAB said Lucidity’s ‘Layer 2’ infrastructure protocol is being used in a pilot to verify ad impressions and improve programmatic supply chain transparency through a decentralised, shared and unbreakable shared ledger. This will be followed by other pilots looking into fee transparency, digital publisher signatures and audience verification.

Another company not involved in the IAB Tech Lab’s group is Brave, creators of the browser that pays publications through its own cryptocurrency, the Brave Attention Token (BAT).

There’s almost no way that the blockchain will turn out to be completely useless to advertising, since  the entire purpose of Ethereum’s technology was to create smart contracts. However, unless it can scale in speed, you won’t see it in ad tech any time soon to do things like serve up ad calls.

IAB’s TAG Program Works, but Too Expensive

Just in time for all the changes in the global market that GDPR will bring next year comes the welcome news that Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) certified companies experienced 83% less fraud this year than the market as a whole. TAG, as you may remember, was an initiative we worked with two years ago when it was getting under way. This year, the group introduced Certified Against Fraud, a self-attested certification for companies that were willing to have  compliance officer who will inspect the company’s policies and priorities and tell internal people how to comply.

This year, 170 companies joined the program to combat ad fraud. Certain large advertisers have already said they will not do business with companies that have not been certified. IAB has also made the program mandatory for all its members in 2018.

A study conducted by The 614 Group assessed the rate of invalid traffic in 6.5 billion digital ad impressions executed by three large media companies — GroupM, IPG, and Horizon Media on behalf of their clients between July and October. Every impression was delivered through a TAG certified channel. So how did 614 Group know what the rate of invalid digital traffic is overall? They benchmarked it at 8.83% for display and 12.03% when video was included. On TAG channels the rate fell to 1.48%.

We’re thinking the one thing wrong with this TAG certification process is that it is only available to large industry players. Currently, it costs $15,000 annually to join TAG and another $10,000 to get certified. If IAB is going to require this next year,  they need to add a program for smaller players and startups, which I bet is where some of the remainder of their invalid traffic comes from.

And for smaller players and startups that are legitimate, the cost is prohibitive. Yet many startups have promising new ideas and technologies that marketers need to be able to try to get new ideas. On behalf of all those small but important and innovative players, who will help move digital advertising forward in the coming years, we intend to say something at the IAB Leadership summit in Palm Springs in February.

 

 

 

 

European Privacy Rules Should Not Kill Free Media

Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, one of our largest digital media industry groups, is on the warpath again. This time he is afraid that a new proposed rule in the GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation), which takes effect in May of next year, will eventually kill  the ad supported free media ecosystem that has been in place for the entire existence of newspapers.

Buried in pages of amendments to the European Union’s latest privacy proposal, the ePrivacy Regulation, members of the European Parliament recently recommended language that would strip European publishers of the right to monetize their content through advertising, eviscerating the basic business model that has supported journalism for more than 200 years. The new directive would require publishers to grant everyone access to their digital sites, even to users who block their ads, effectively creating a shoplifting entitlement for consumers of news, social media, email services, or entertainment.

The language specifically says

“No user shall be denied access to any [online service] or functionality, regardless of whether this service is remunerated or not, on grounds that he or she has not given his or her consent […] to the processing of personal information and/or the use of storage capabilities of his or her [device].”

In practice, it means this: The basic functionality of the internet, which is built on data exchanges between a user’s computer and publishers’ servers, can no longer be used for the delivery of advertising unless the consumer agrees to receive the ads – but the publisher must deliver content to that consumer regardless.

Rothenberg refers to this proposed regulation as about to enable behavior akin to shoplifting or turnstile-jumping. Moreover, he says that since 76% of internet media is supported by advertising, much of the world’s free media would inevitably disappear, leaving us essentially without all the freedom of the press that the internet enabled for the past twenty years.

Rothenberg is paid to advocated on behalf of the internet advertising business model, and we all realize that, but here is an exceptionally good point that he makes about mobile advertising and how its demise would affect democratic values:

The impact in the mobile environment, where the majority of mobile applications depend on advertising revenue to survive, would be just as devastating. With few consumers willing and able to pay the additional taxes, the majority of the online content they enjoy today could disappear forever – at exactly the time authoritarian governments around the world are attempting to seize more control of the news and entertainment media.

While some might argue that Rothenberg’s latest rant is overstated, we think  this is a very unusual period in the history of the world’s democracies, and it makes sense to advocate strongly for free, ad-supported media  –as long as it is not overly intrusive and provides value to consumers.  That’s the key point that Rothenberg forgets to make, but is never far from our minds. To earn consumers’ attention, we have to provide fundamentally better advertising. And that, paired with free media, can preserve the array of voices in the digital media landscape that contribute to the preservation of both human rights and democratic values.

 

Mobile Video Monetization Strategies

Everyone in the industry is wondering  when mobile video will begin to be monetized properly (by which we mean in proportion to the time consumers spend watching it).As part of our work on the IAB Digital Video Committee, we attended a meeting  to learn what may be holding the industry back from getting the kind of ad rates for mobile video that it deserves. Three different issues emerged from the meeting: how publishers feel about available video formats (often unsuitable for mobile), the state of cross-device measurement (just getting started),  and the unfamiliarity of TV media buyers with the digital video environment.

You may already know that ZEDO pioneered a format called InArticle, which later was reinvented by Teads as “outstream video.” While this format has been highly successful for us, we know it is not for everyone, and we  heard two publisher panelists (Meredith and Weather Channel ) say that they will never run out stream because they don’t like the user experience on their sites. They talked about 15-second preroll as preferable, although they admit that most advertisers send them 30-second spots. These publishers are pushing back at agencies and brands who try to use existing TV creative, esp. 30-sec spots, on mobile  have pretty good statistics on completion rates, and they feel shorter is better. In fact, one attendee suggested five-second video, just to get the brand’s name in front of the audience without offending it.

Because there is a relative scarcity of pre-roll another format publishers are testing for video is mid-roll, Facebook is rolling these ads out right now to see how well they are accepted.

At ZEDO and ZINC, we are testing our own version of pre-roll, as well as a new format we call “polite Swipe Up.” Our objective with our formats, which achieve high visibility and engagement, is not to antagonize site visitors. In the Digital Video Committee, several publishers complained that group M’s demand that all Ads be 100% viewable means that they waste inventory and annoy viewers by upping the frequency of ads while trying to  achieve those viewability numbers.

The issue of cross-channel metrics also came up in the meeting, because marketers are only beginning to be able to follow consumers from device to device and from home to work. Before investing in digital video, they need more assurance that they are following the same customer from display to video to TV.

And then there is the “people problem.” TV media buyers often don’t buy digital video, or want to pay less for it, because they don’t know how to buy it. This is such an industry-wide problem that IAB is preparing a Digital Video Guide and a curriculum, and will hold workshops and classes to educate media buyers. The guide will be introduced during the Digital New Fronts, and the education programs will begin shortly thereafter.

 

 

 

 

2017 Will Bring Differences in IAB Ad Formats

Strap on your safety belts, digital advertising will be very different in 2017. The IAB is in the process of creating new formats for online ads, reflecting both the LEAN principles it introduced last year and new aspect ratios that take into account cross-device campaigns. The new formats are in response to the shift to mobile, the demand of brand marketers for cross-device integrated campaigns, and new technologies such as mixed, augmented, and virtual reality, which debuted this year and will take over the market in fall 2017 when Apple releases its rumored tenth anniversary iPhone.

One other change that is suggested by these guidelines: we’re not going for scale and reach in the future. We are going for precise targeting that can be measured for attribution. Even in branding, we’re after the right customer, not just random eyeballs.

The draft is open for public comment until Nov. 28 and can be downloaded here. ZEDO has worked with the Online Trust Association to comment on the draft from a privacy, security, and malware perspective.

The following IAB Tech Lab member companies were part of the working group that created this draft: Aarki Grey Advertising Sizmek ABC TV Network GroupM Spongecell AdCade Gruuv Interactive Startapp Adelphic, Inc. Havoc Sublime Skinz AdGear Technologies, Inc. Ipsos TapAd Ansible J. Walter Thompson U.S.A., Inc. Team AOL AOL Kargo The New York Times Company AOL Platforms Mashable The Walt Disney Company Beachfront Media MediaCom The Weather Company, an IBM Business Bloomberg Merkle Inc Undertone CBS Interactive Micro Cube Digital Limited Unity Technologies Celtra Microsoft Advertising Unruly Cox Media Group MING Utility & Entertainment Group USATODAY.com Cyber Ideas Monotype Vertebrae Dow Jones & Company (The Wall Street Journal) Flexitive Vibrant Media ESPN.com Ogilvy Xaxis Flashtalking PageFair Yahoo Flipboard PGA TOUR YieldMo Flite PointRoll Zillow Forbes Media R/GA Gannett Responsive Ads Google Saatchi & Saatchi NY .

Among many other changes, the new Dynamic Standards vary according to weather and geography, as well as demographics. Also, pixels are gone, replaced by aspect ratios, so the ads can be used across screens.

Developed by the IAB Tech Lab, the revised portfolio is based on HTML5 technology and comprised of flexible display ads, mobile ads, video ads, native ads, and introduces guidelines for new content experiences like virtual reality and social messaging ads.

The IAB also expects ads to contain emojis and stickers. Guaranteed will be user choice according to the LEAN Principles of lightweight, encrypted, AdChoice supported, and non-invasive advertising.

In some ways, getting rid of pixels will make it easier to create one piece of creative and deploy it across screens. Although we already support this capability, we’re in the process of getting absolutely every piece of this IAB guideline into our product roadmap so we’re ready for it when it comes. Because we are known for fundamentally better advertising, we want to continue to lead the market.

IAB’s Lean Guidelines Are Overdue

Last week the  IAB finally decided it was better to the join people who complain about slow page loads and annoying ads than to try to beat them. Simply put, it would have been a losing fight. The people have spoken, and the people are the visitors to publisher sites and the target audience for advertisers. So IAB is going to put out a set of new guidelines designed to solve the problem the industry thinks consumers have with ads.

Under the acronym L.E.A.N. — light, encrypted, ad choice, non-interruptive — the program will roll out over the next six months. The idea is to get publishers to clean up their sites, relying less on obnoxious ads that slow sites to a crawl and scare the bejesus out of users.

The IAB puts the burden on publishers to make their sites load faster and the user experience less off-putting.

But we have been a publisher ad server since 1999, and we have never found publishers to be unconscious of their user experience. In fact, most publishers are not willing to try new advertising formats that they think might spoil that experience. However, as CPMs went down, publishers were forced to try new things, and that’s where the breakdown occurred.

It’s wrong to blame the entire rejection of advertising that ad blocking software represents on the publisher. The advertiser also has to shoulder part of the burden. And one of the largest global advertisers, Pepsi, has decided to rest the blame on the shoulders of ad agencies who have not re-thought the creative formats for digital advertising.

Last week  an executive of Pepsi pointed out at the Association of National Advertisers meeting that he hates ads, and that not only is the agency model broken, but we may have to do away with the very word “advertising” and re-invent the way we reach consumers.  “Can we stop using the term advertising, which is based on this model of polluting [content],” he said.

“My particular peeve is pre-roll. I hate it,” he added. “What is even worse is that I know the people who are making it know that I’m going to hate it. Why do I know that? Because they tell me how long I am going to have to endure it — 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds. You only have to watch this crap for another 10 seconds and then you are going to get to the content that you really wanted to see. That is a model of polluting content that is not sustainable.”

What will happen? The same thing that happened when pop-ups dominated advertising a decade ago. Consumers began to block them in the browser, and they gradually fell out of favor with advertisers. Perhaps that will also happen with pre-roll.  We are still feeling our way to the “right” kind of advertising to serve to consumers. Ad blocking software will help us get there faster.

 

Will An End to Ad Fraud Mean Bigger Budgets?

As buyers begin to demand better metrics on both ad fraud and viewability from publishers, the definition of how to measure  ad fraud keeps changing. Like viewability, fraud numbers can vary depending on the third-party monitor. And if you’ve ever seen a rat on a charged grid stop moving because of operational neurosis, you know that marketers won’t unleash the biggest budgets unless they have some standards with which they can feel comfortable.

The only thing that will change all this is greater transparency. Earlier this year, IAB in partnership with ANA and 4As started an industrywide initiative known as the Trustworthy Accountability Group to help promote transparency. The MRC is also trying to establish a certification for fraud detection. But as with viewability, it’s not so simple. In March, the group released list of first principles around fraud detection, source identification, process transparency and accountability.

The first step is to arrive at a common definition of what constitutes fraud.

There exists a set of ad-related actions generated by infrastructure designed not to deliver the right ad at the right time to the right user, but rather to extract the maximum amount of money from the digital advertising ecosystem, regardless of the presence of an audience. There also exists a set of actions generated in the normal course of internet maintenance by non-human actors – search engine spiders, brand safety bots, competitive intelligence gathering tools. These and other actions, whether they be page views, ad clicks, mouse movement, shopping cart actions and other seemingly human activities  must be expelled from the supply chain.

The supplier (ad network, exchange or publisher) must institute technology or business practices to eliminate bots, adware and malware traffic, and other sources of malicious activity.

At ZEDO we have been active in anti-malware efforts and have been selected for the Online Trust Association’s Honor Roll four years in a row. We were on the front end of this movement long before it became fashionable, and we developed our own technologies to weed out adware and malware.

Buyers should be able to identify the URLs  on which their ads appear. If the URL is masked, there must be enough trust and transparency so the buyer still feels comfortable. Suppliers must also able to supply information about what processes we employ to root out fraud. This is now becoming an industry-wide supply side requirement. There must be a rating scale, and an explanation to the buyer about how that scale works, how it is used, and what happens to the lower quality traffic.

The intent of the industry efforts is to develop a set of best practices so companies trying to achieve compliance will know what their guidelines should be. For publishers, exchanges, and networks, this should be a big opportunity, because compliance will unleash bigger marketing budgets. And since we already comply, we’d be happy to see the fraudsters chased out of the supply chain.

 

Internet Ad Revenues Post Huge Gains

While ad tech companies themselves are still merging and their IPOS may not be doing too well, the industry they enable is doing just fine. PwC US has just released its latest half year study of Internet ad revenues, an they’ve hit yet another new high, now at $23.1 billion. That’s up 15% from last year’s first half., which was $20.1 billion.  IAB released the study at the beginning of Q4, traditionally a strong time for advertising revenues. That means Q4 will probably beat Q2’s $11.7 billion.

Realistically, there’s nowhere to go but up, because mobile revenues alone have increased 76%, and they’re just beginning to take off. They’re at $5.3 billion now, and that’s before advertisers really develop mobile strategies and figure out how to measure their results. Another promising sign is the recent shift of TV dollars to video. Right now, that shift looks like a cross-channel or cross-platform strategy, but it will change further as large networks unbundle from the cable providers and become apps, with their own strategies for attracting those elusive cord-cutters. Or in the case of Millennials, people who never even had a cord to cut.

So we predict that 2015 will be the year of  “Mobile. Digital. Video.”

And a recent AOL Platforms study seems to agree with us, citing the following trends:

  • VIDEO AD GROWTH IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE.
    Advertising spending on online video increased for the 5th consecutive year, and buyers claim spending will grow across the board in 2015. Publishers are reaping the benefits of diversified selling channels, inclusive of programmatic.
  • DRAMATIC SPENDING SHIFTS FUEL THE DIGITAL VIDEO REVOLUTION.
    Agencies and brands are increasingly tapping into broadcast and cable TV budgets to fund their digital video ad spending.
  • PROGRAMMATIC IS OVERTAKING PUBLISHER-DIRECT BUYS.
    Brands and agencies are moving away from buying direct from publishers and ad networks, in favor of buying through exchanges and DSPs. With 60 percent of their budgets going to programmatic channels, brand advertisers are most aggressive with their spend reallocation.
  • DATA-DRIVEN, PROGRAMMATIC TV HAS ARRIVED.
    Video buyers are already running data-driven TV campaigns, evidenced by the 40 percent of brands adopting the practice. Brand budgets for programmatic TV buying are predominantly coming from traditional TV spending, not from digital or incremental spending.
  • VIEWABILITY VEXES BOTH BUYERS AND PUBLISHERS.
    Brand buyers and sellers cited ad viewability as the most problematic issue for them, compared to verification/placement and bot fraud, which ranked lower. Only 25 percent said they are up to speed on these issues, indicating a need for additional education.

A key driver of the mobile video revolution is social media revenues, which includes advertising delivered on social platforms, including social networking  and social gaming websites and apps. Advertising on social media sites and within gaming apps and platforms increased 58% over last year, and will continue to rise.

Interestingly, search advertising is underperforming growth in the rest of the Internet advertising business, perhaps because it is the most mature category of online advertising and also the least interactive. Still, it’s a pretty encouraging set of reports to take us through Q4.

 

IAB OK’s Trading on Viewability

For three years, we’ve been screaming that in digital advertising, there’s no such thing as “below the fold,” with its devalued impressions. We asserted that if an ad is seen by a visitor,it should be paid for. Now, IAB‘s new standard has directed that this should and will happen. Above and below the fold will no longer be the determinant. The new determinant will be viewability.

The IAB, after much sturm und drang ( 18 months of committee meetings and discussions at leadership summits)  released its standard for viewable display impressions last week. As expected, a viewable ad is one in which a minimum of 50 percent of pixels are in view for a minimum of 1 second. It doesn’t matter where that ad is placed on the site.

This shouldn’t be news to any of us; we have been following the issue of viewability and wondering when advertisers would start buying for it. Now that the Media Rating Council has lifted its November 2012 Viewable Impression Advisory for Display Advertising, the industry should start making transactions using viewable impression currency immediately.

IAB has a list of vendors certified by the MRC, and although their measurements can vary plus or minus five per cent, agencies with brand advertising campaigns will expect guarantees on viewable impressions. As for ZEDO, we’ve been working with comScore since it was AdXpose, and our high impact formats are all certified 99% viewable.

However, the bad news is all of this applies only to display advertising for now; video won’t be available for trading until June and video is the fastest growing segment of the online advertising business right now.

As IAB’s Sherrill Mane wrote,

Publishers who have been testing display viewability data know all too well that the investment in resources is substantial. You need to finance purchase of data from multiple measurement vendors, assign the right teams of people to develop test parameters, conduct enough comparisons so that you have an idea of how to forecast inventory and optimize yield. Even if all the steps are executed well, you are likely seeing variances across vendors. Some of the variances may be greater than what you’d need for confidence in the decisions you need to make.

Before you go nuts trying to decide which vendor you are going to use to measure viewability, you might want to take a look at IAB’s reconciliation study, which examines the different methodologies used by the vendors.

If you happen to like comScore, all currently used ZEDO high impact formats are certified by comScore.

 

 

IAB: 2013 THE YEAR OF BRAND ADVERTISING

According to IAB, performance-based advertising has reached the point of diminishing returns for all its players; it has created a highly efficient market in which there is almost no margin left for either publishers or agencies. So this  is the year digital brand advertising can and must be born, or the digital advertising industry can’t survive.

We are part of the IAB because we feel we are aligned with its goals. We don’t just join every organization. IAB shares our beliefs that if agencies are freed to produce magical creative, technology will help them build brands across platforms and geographies. And all this can be measured with metrics that are useful to marketers.

Here is a summary of the IAB Digital Brand Building initiatives for this year.

1. Rising Stars rewards the creative that interacts with consumers right on the page and allows them to engage the way they used to engsge in person. We have to allow agencies to produce better creative — the kind with which people really want to engage.

2. 3MS(Making Measurement Make Sense) is the initiative that began last year to change how we measure ads. Last year, the emphasis was on viewable impressions. Going forward measurements will also include Interactivity, Engagement and any other tangible forms of ad interaction that correspond with results.

3. Advertising Technology and Operations. Deployed well, advertising technologies can eliminate fraud and assure brand safety. But the ecosystem has been portrayed with unnecessary complexity. iAB wants to simplify and lubricate the supply chain. Amen brother.

4. Protecting Privacy. To build brands requires trust, and the industry should collaborate with consumers to combat malware and spyware, and protect privacy through self-regulation. Firefox’s decision to forbid third party cookies is the tip of the impending security/privacy iceberg.

5.Demystifying Dats. Right now, the advertising industry takes more data than it gives, and to be successful we must foster  transparency and trust in the ad value chain.

6.Screens. Simplifying the delivery of ads across devices is critical.Cross-screen research initiatives will quantify the value of cross-screen campaigns and IAB will try to help marketers manage the risks and maximize the rewards of working across screens.

7. Learning and Certification. iAB wants to grow, professionalize and standardize our sales teams, ad ops, and ad technologists so the industry can be taken seriously.

8.Global Brand Building. All brands can and should be global. Digital reaches everywhere, and digital can play both a global and a hyperlocal role simultaneously. IAB plans to help brands be global safely.

Once again, we’re ahead of this curve, already selling our high impact formats and full screen video formats that accept already- produced TV ads on a digital platform. We’re just waiting for you to meet us here in the digital marketing Utopia ahead. How else can we help?