2016: a Banner Year for ZEDO

For ZEDO, 2016 was the year  the ZINCbyZEDO Innovations Suite of video formats pulled out to lead the market in both completion rates and viewability. It was also the year we became known for our ability to outperform much bigger competitors, even those who offered customer incentives we didn’t match. At the end of the day, results count, and in head-to-head trials, we almost always emerged the winner. You can imagine how excited we are about 2017.

While ZEDO has long been known as one of the largest independent ad servers, ZINC is a relative newcomer to the scene. ZINC is a division of ZEDO that we launched three years ago for the express purpose of providing a secure, end-to-end platform for both advertisers and publishers to combat the obvious problems associated with programmatic buying: lack of viewability, downright fraud, and malware.

ZINC’s first attempt to penetrate the market came with the Inview Slider, a tasteful display ad that only appeared when a viewed scrolled down the page. It was very well received, but we knew we had to keep innovating, and last year, we were first to market with the inArticle video format, which we developed before out-stream was a “thing.” In fact, we called it “InArticle” because we felt that best described where it appeared and there was no other category. We think we actually invented this category.

And then a Nielsen Study found that when ads are viewed in an outstream format rather than as pre-roll, even skippable pre-roll, purchase intent is increased by 50% for the advertised product. Most important, outstream increases purchase intent by 74% among those critical millennials. Outstream also produces 60% brand recommendation on the part of millennials. This format overtook most other attempts to provide video advertising, because 44% of millennials felt it fit naturally with other content and made ads more likable.

Our own experience proved that outstream could be good for both brands and publishers, and it quickly caught on. Soon we were in a very competitive landscape, in which other companies also sold outstream. But ZINC’s outstream ads showed their advantage over competitors.  We saw 70% completion rates, very high for the industry, and certainly higher than the 8-12% for skippable pre-roll.

We also delivered scale, because we have 18,000 publishers in our network. We delivered 109 million monthly uniques and 80 billion monthly impressions, even after we spent most of the year purging our network of publishers we felt were not brand safe or appropriately premium.  Our CTRS were among the highest in the industry, between 1.25 and 1.3%.

Half way through the year, we launched a mobile FLIP ad unit, and three variations of a SWIPE up format. And we introduced a self-service platform.

However, one of the things we are most proud of is that we made the Online Trust Alliance’s Honor Roll for the fifth year in a row, having demonstrated that our policies with respect to privacy, data security, and native ad serving were aligned with the highest standards in our industry.

Bring on 2017!







Video Replacing TV as the Top of the Funnel

Seldom is there an industry read with which we disagree more than Ben Thompson’s recent writing on his blog Stratechery. In it, he says that “digital advertising is becoming a rather simple proposition: Facebook, Google, or don’t bother.” We don’t agree. While display may have commoditized, video has not, and TV advertisers moving over to online video are choosing to go broader, and to buy from ZINC>


Thompson talks about the advertising world of the past, in which newspapers, radio and television found their niches in the advertising spend, which has always been about 1.2% of our economic activity. Each existed at a different point in what used to be called “the funnel” from suspect to prospect to customer:

photo courtesy of Ben Thompson, Stratechery

photo courtesy of Ben Thompson, Stratechery

TV and radio were particularly effective at building awareness — making customers aware that your product existed — and also at building brand affinity — the subconscious preference for your product over a competing product at the moment of purchase. Newspapers, meanwhile, were useful when it came to “consideration”: helping consumers decide to buy the product they were now aware of (coupons were very useful here). Finally, brand managers spent a lot of time and money on their relationships with retailers to help pull consumers through the funnel to conversion, with the vague hope that said consumers would prove to be loyal.

It has always been difficult to manage the top of the funnel through digital advertising, because it is less measurable than performance advertising. That’s why RTB took off first, and brand advertising was so slow to be accepted. However, we now have some very good formats for brand awareness, and some very good cross-channel campaigns. Video has made a huge difference for brand advertisers, and “out stream” advertising has made another. Native provides a third.

Because of the size of their reach, Thompson argues, platforms like Facebook’s and Google’s, which can guide an advertiser through different parts of the funnel by means of their own offerings, will capture the advertising market once and for all: “Google is promising… awareness via properties like YouTube, consideration via DoubleClick, and conversion via AdSense.” And thus it makes no sense to go anywhere else, and every smaller platform, from LinkedIn, to Yelp, to Twitter, will lose.

While Thompson uses this thesis as a way to account for the recent stock market performance of LinkedIn and Twitter, it really doesn’t account for all the publishers in our premium network, who have leveraged inView and inArticle on their own sites to achieve better returns than the bigger platforms. They know that from a cost/benefit perspective, bigger does not always mean better in terms of investment return.

Ultimately, advertisers care about the return on their advertising dollar, and if they are trying to reach special audiences, they’ll spend far more trying to do that through Facebook and Google than they will through targeting niche sites where those visitors spend most of their time.





Effective Ad Placement

Where an ad appears on a site can often be a determiner of how well the ad performs. Traditionally ads at the top of a page were assumed to have the best performance. However, advances in both site development and ad formats mean that what was true in the past may no longer be true.

The graph below illustrates the performance of ads on a single site. We’re the ad server, and they have  bought our inArticle ads. We often conduct tests on our own formats to make sure we’ve told the truth about how they perform.

time-spent-grapgIn this case, the axis on the left represents the amount of time spent on the page, and each bar represents a part of the page measured in pixel height. The bars proceed from left to right, with the left most bar indicating the performance of ads at the top of the page and the right most bar representing the performance of ads at the bottom of the page. We’ve conducted this analysis on many of the sites on our premium publisher network.

Our analysis has shown that across a wide range of sites, users spend more than double the time with an ad located around an article than they do at  the top of the page. This demonstrates that formats like our inArticle, which runs a video within an article, can be much more effective than banners on the top of the page, which traditionally have been thought to be the most effective places to advertise.

One caveat to all this : all formats lose engagement as the viewer moves down the page. Even the inArticle format’s viewability will drop tremendously if it is placed below the 2000 px or 50% of the page.

ZEDO Releases New Version of Popular InArticle Format

Good products are often improved once they have been introduced to customers who can give valuable feedback. That has certainly been the case with ZINC’s InArticle format, which launched a mini upgraded version last week.

When it hit the market, InArticle immediately became one of ZINC”s most popular high impact formats, because it allowed advertisers to scale campaigns with unduplicated reach. And now listening to customers has made InArticle even better. A new design, coupled with an entirely new version of InArticle for desktop browsers, makes this ad unit work better than ever before. The ad loads politely, does not autoplay audio, and clicks to full screen.

Closing the full screen takes the user to a a landing page, a feature that’s on by default but can be turned off. Sound comes only on mouseover, and the unit can be closed by clicking a close button on the top right hand corner. Sound starts only upon mouseover.

For VAST, the video continues to play in a smaller (160×120) window in the right rail when the user scrolls past.

Earlier versions of InArticle for Desktop had used an outsourced player, which we thought was too slow, because it downloaded a 234KB file to the desktop. It also had only limited customization capability.

We made the decision to build our own player, which greatly improves the performance of InArticle. InArticle 3.1 is faster than ever before, too. Because it stays ready with the video ad, it is 2x faster to deliver the ad and makes for an improved overall experience.

Version 3.1 of InArticle runs on ZEDO’s own flash player, which is VAST 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 compliant and only 73.5 KB in size. It also has an API-based design, permitting greater customization.

The unit works the same way it always did, only better. We’ve answered some customer concerns with this version. The unit now uses the full width of the article, can be skipped using a close button, and keeps the aspect ratio intact. A 16:9 ad will now always be shown with the 16:9 dimension. 4:3 ads will be shown with 4:3 player dimension only for an article width 6 pixels or less, and this value is configurable. In the leave behind, if the video is finished a complete view is counted.

When the user scrolls back to the top of the page, the leave behind disappears and the larger unit continues playing. For VAST, after the video is finished the unit stays open with an advertiser messages that clicks to a landing page. There is also a replay icon that appears at the bottom right after the video is finished, although if the user replays it, no event is tracked.

If a publisher prefers, the unit can also be configured to close after the video is finished, although this is not recommended. Version 3.1 tracks all IAB defined VAST events.

Version 3.1 also enables passbacks. If the VAST tag returns a NULL response, the unit passes back and serves the next partner. If the VPAID tag fails to serve a video, the unit passes back and serves the next partner, and if the VPAID tag returns a NULL response the unit passes back and serves the next partner.

We have several campaigns running the new version already. For more information .

For Holiday Ads, inArticle Video Fills the Bill

It’s amazing now narrowly the discussion of video advertising has focused. Most participants view it merely as placing ads in front of, in the midst of, or at the end of video content. Let’s call that advertising on video.

That’s a real miss for media planners who have video ads they’d like to deploy with greater reach during the holiday sason. There’s a large audience that doesn’t frequent video sites, yet spends much of the day online. Those consumers are READING. They’re getting information about everything from their finances to the weather to what they’re going to give for Christmas, but they’re not getting it from YouTube. Most of these people visit premium sites and tend to be people with more money than the younger people who frequent YouTube. Because they are information gatherers, they also tend to be more educated and they skew a bit older. You can’t reach them on video because they’re busy, but they do keep up with the news, or the ball scores, or the health sites.

To reach those more affluent, more educated consumers, a format like our ZINC InArticle unit is ideal. It displays a video ad  alongside an article the site visitor is reading.  This format deployed over our premium network gives advertisers unduplicated reach.

As you can see, these ad formats are not involved in the discussion of whether TV is dead, is shifting online, or whatever the latest ad tech distraction is.  It is irrelevant whether TV has shifted online, or even if these consumers watch TV at all. These are not ads in video, they’re engaging, high impact video ads in a print environment. They display in standard IAB sizes, and they can be placed wherever you might place a display ad, although they can use content made for TV or video. Because they ARE video, these formats are more engaging. Although they do not auto-play, if the user mouses over them the volume turns on. And if a visitor clicks on the ad, it expands to full screen. It’s ideal for new car launches, financial service products, most luxury goods, and even consumer packaged goods.

Our initial tests of these formats sold through our ZINC platform demonstrate substantially higher levels of engagement and recall. So if you’re looking for a way to reach new customers with existing video ads, inArticle could be your best choice.



Mobile Video Plays in Holiday Advertising

We are entering the holiday season, otherwise known as the advertising season. Retail forecasts are less than glowing, and stores are adjusting their hours and promotions accordingly. It appears that as soon as we get up from the table on Thanksgiving, we’ll be heading off to a sale.

And how will we find out about those bargains? Probably on our mobile devices if we listen to Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon, who is behind a new campaign promoting the Macy’s app as a component of its holiday advertising. In her view, all consumers are relying on mobile more to make purchase decisions. And with mobile comes mobile video. Both in-app video and video on mobile sites will play a big role in holiday advertising.

Mobile video can be especially effective if it’s not tied exclusively to video sites like You Tube, which attracts people who are watching video, but not necessarily the audience that wants a given advertiser’s product. Rather, video advertising should also appear  on premium sites targeted to the desired audience.  Ad formats that appear in the midst of articles are especially effective according our own experience with the InArticle format.

And now, as Ad Age points out, these ads can be measured.

The industry has grown up beyond its infancy over the last year, recognizing that the selling power of TV also needs to be in place for digital. Enter Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings (OCR). Enter comScore’s Validated Campaign Essentials (vCE). Enter Vindico‘s advanced reporting (OpenPixel). The adoption of GRP-based measurements acts as a great indication that the market is growing up, and following the footsteps of its older — and certainly wealthier — TV parent. The focus on demographic delivery and content validation is reflection of maturity. The biggest challenge that advertisers face is not content. It’s not reach. It’s not demographics. It’s all about the execution of the ads.

And now we can also offer transparency into how and when the ad was delivered, Broadly speaking, execution must reflect transparency into how and where the ad was delivered within a page.  Because our ads appear in traditional online display formats, we can offer information about them that most ad tech companies can not.

That’s our holiday gift to you; delivery of mobile video in unusual formats that drive attention to your ads.


Unduplicated Reach for Video Ads

Everyone knows intuitively that digital video advertising must be effective — after all, look how the number of people watching it keeps growing. But are you reaching the same people with your digital video ads that you reach on TV? Most media planners don’t know.

They’re just beginning to focus on measuring digital video, because they are beginning to spend more for it. The pre-roll on YouTube, much as it is disliked, is insurance that the ad is being seen. That’s the only sure-fire metric.

In some respects, video ads can be measured like TV ads are measured. Nielsen can tell us who is viewing what during a certain time slot –IF there’s a time slot. For most video there isn’t. Can Nielsen tell us about online video that’s always there, viewed on demand, time-shifted, seen on a mobile device?

The answer to that question is yes and no. Current measurement techniques can tell you who has watched your ad. But, like TV ad measurement, it doesn’t yet tell you how that viewership influences actual sales.  Like most TV advertising, most video advertising is for “brand lift,” rather than performance.

However, brand lift is a weak metric when you have to take your media plan into a budget forecasting meeting. Especially if you don’t know whether the people you reach on YouTube are the same people you reach on TV.

It stands to reason there might be a great deal of duplicated reach between people who watch video and people who watch TV. As Adit Abhyankar said recently,

“if [marketers] are chasing other proxy brand metrics without un-duplicating audience reach across advertising platforms, they will not know how much of their digital video audience engagement is incremental and how much they would have gotten anyway. It’s the equivalent of having a bazooka in your arsenal, but only thinking you have something as powerful as a water gun.”

But what about people who don’t watch videos online, but could be your market. How can you use video ads to reach them?

Last week, participating in some agency meetings where the question of unduplicated reach came up, we realized ZINC had an answer: our InArticle formats do not run on video sites as pre-roll or post-roll, but on pages where people are actually reading. They can be seen, because they are different from what else is on the page, but they are unobtrusive, because they don’t play until the viewer gets there, and the audio doesn’t come on unless the viewer hovers. Even better, if the viewer clicks, the video expands to the size of the page.

We’ve realized this is powerful stuff, because not only do we have the partnerships set up with both comScore and Nielsen to measure view ability, we also have a format that provides marketers with unduplicated reach. Bring on Q4!







Apple Rollout of Tablets Bodes Well for Mobile Ad Prices

So Apple announced at its most recent events that it has had the strongest iPhone launch ever. The company then went on to say that it has sold 170,000,000 iPads. If that doesn’t tell you something about the value of mobile advertising, nothing will.

Along with the iPad revolution, mobile advertising has also risen dramatically. Although there are still price differentials, they will be made up for in volume.

The newest iPads, which will be available to order in early November, and probably given to everyone who doesn’t already have one as Christmas gifts, are thinner than the old ones. The large iPad is lighter, too, and has been repositioned as the iPad Air — meaning it is expected to replace the laptop even for office users. The Apple workflow software, iWork, which is like Microsoft Office, is now free, which means families will buy their students iPads instead of computers for school, and governments will continue to issue them to employees. The iPad is already the standard issue to employees of the Rwandan government. Oh, and did we tell you that the new iPad mini is available with retina display.

Older models have not been taken out of the lineup, but have simply been offered at a lower price; you can now buy an iPad for $299.

Let’s not even talk about  the other brands, such as Google’s Nexus 7 that are all selling well, but just focus on how Apple has repositioned its products, because Apple may not be the biggest in the market, but it’s the ultimate thought leader in the mobile device market.

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPads, in an era that now seems like the dark ages but was really April 2010,  he positioned it as the “lean back” device; the device for consuming content. It soon became the way people watched video. And it looks as if TIm Cook has now repositioned the tablet as more than just a consumption device; it may soon be the only computer people in developed countries own, just as the smartphone is the only computer many people in developing countries own. It is about access to content inexpensively and on the move, and access to tools of content production as well.

We saw this in 2010 and began developing mobile advertising formats with our team. The suite of High Impact formats we’ve been selling to agencies and brands through ZINC have become highly successful for us, and the inArticle video format,  has been called game-changing by agencies who have seen it and signed up. InArticle, which appears alongside printed content is a way to expose brands to new audiences that are reading rather than watching video to which you can append pre-roll.

in 2014, we predict prices for mobile ads will rise as well, and will come to an equivalency with desktop ads.

And we’ve been right before:-)



ZINC: High Impact Formats for Brand Impact

Are you wondering what the relationship is between ZEDO and ZINC.? Many of our customers are. It’s time for some good “talking points” about ZINC, ZEDO‘s advertiser subsidiary.
Because we are a big proponent of user initiation in advertising and an even bigger proponent of visibility, ZINC has developed a suite of high impact formats for agencies to use for brand messaging on mobile. We know how quickly users are moving to mobile and we  help advertisers meet them there .
This is a different way to get a brand message in front of users, and a better option than pre-roll, because it encourages a higher level of engagement and it can scale quickly and globally as pre-roll, with its limited supply of inventory, cannot.
These ads can be embedded in articles, and they’re not tied to a piece of video content to deliver their message. In addition, we have a proprietary trigger mechanism for the ad that prevents it from appearing until the viewer is there, ie., has scrolled down that far on a page. ( If the user scrolls, she’s there.) After the trigger, the ad will auto-play, but with the sound off. Mousing over the ad turns on the sound, and clicking to full screen turns any smart phone or tablet into a full screen video player.
If the visitor doesn’t click, the experience is very much like pre-roll, but unlike that video format it doesn’t prevent the visitor to your site from consuming your content. In a simpler version of the “Skip Ad” feature on many sites, this format, which we are calling InArticle for now, allows a reader to keep scrolling if she doesn’t wish to view the ad.
A because ZINC is part of ZEDO and works with the ZEDO network of Tier 1 publishers and news sites, InArticle has gotten the publisher adoption to allow you to scale your ads globally. We have hundreds of sites, a publisher network that allows marketers to access the right audience with their existing video assets. No creative customization is necessary.
Feel free to email to learn more about this novel, ideal branding message platform.