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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Top Trends in Digital Advertising for 2016

It’s fun at the end of every year to predict what will happen the following year, especially in an industry so prone to change as the online media industry. But this year, because consumers have announced that they’ll have a say in next year’s trends by turning on their ad blockers, some upcoming changes are less difficult to predict correctly than usual.  Assuming the publishing industry isn’t suicidal, for example:

1)publishers will take seriously the wishes of consumers to have less intrusive advertising by planning more native content campaigns with brands and selling fewer display ads at higher CPMS;

2)the creative department (or agency) will assume more importance than it has had in the past decade, because media buyers are coming to the conclusion that it’s not only a numbers game — it really matters what message is delivered to which customers. The most sophisticated brands are doing very customized creative based on information gleaned from their own databases so customers don’t receive irrelevant ads. Example: if you live in Florida, you won’t get the ad about how the car handles in ice and snow; you’ll get the one about its powerful air conditioning system;

3)Brands will expend more energy and money producing content consumers might actually want to watch and engage with, rather than just buying impressions for reach and frequency.  In fact, frequency caps will probably go down, as advertisers strive not to irritate consumers, and reach will be deeper, and not as wide;

4)Autoplay video with the audio turned on will probably go away, as will non-skippable preroll and other formats that irritate consumers such as pop- unders and interstitials. Advertising that blocks content from a site visitor will also go away;

5)Millennials and IT professionals, the most tech savvy segments of the online audience, will have to be reached with native advertising, in-app advertising, and direct mail, because these consumers are the heaviest users of ad blockers and will probably not willingly turn them off once they’re on;

6) As a result, native formats and contextual targeting will be the “new new thing,” which means the one thing that can’t go away is data. Both publishers and brands should invest heavily in their own databases, because trackers are also being blocked along with ads. Cookies have fallen out of favor;

7)As an industry, we shot ourselves in the foot over the past five years seeking scale, scale, scale. That meant we made many more consumers angry than those whose needs we satisfied. In 2016,  in order to wean consumers off their ad blockers, we’re going to have to make the user experience of the mobile web  better.  By better, we mean faster page load times for mobile browsing, which means using technologies like Google’s new AMP framework. It means buying ads on premium sites that have reduced their inventory to make their pages deliver a better user experience, and paying more per CPM. And it means reaching more of the RIGHT people, although fewer people overall;

8) In 2016, we will probably see a true supply and demand market, in which the supply is no longer infinite as advertisers refuse to pay for traffic generated by bots and publishers streamline their pages. Group M’s dictum that it will only pay for ads in which the experience is initiated by the user and the “chosen” ad is 100% in view, 50% completed, with the audio on for the entire time will take hold. This is a tough standard to meet, but MediaCom’s Steve Carbone argues that anything less than 100% viewable in any other medium would be considered a “make good.”

9) Ad exchanges will continue to struggle as agencies leave them for private marketplaces.

10) A plethora of working groups and industry committees will be convened to flesh out the new standards.

Happy Holidays and Happy Ever-changing New Year.

 

A Quick Way to Solve Your Fraud and Viewability Problems

 Switch to ZEDO. And we’re not kidding. Our platform has been tested and shown to contain less than 3% ad fraud, coupled with over 90% viewability. We’ve got the numbers to prove it.
 What does that mean? It means we’ve been working at this problem since we were founded, and every year we get better and better at serving viewable ad units and firing sites where we identify fraud. If we didn’t have to deal with third party networks, we’d probably have zero fraud, because we never include suboptimal sites in the campaigns we serve. Spotting those has been a major focus of our technologists, as has been viewability.
 Three years ago, we pledged to own the phrase “viewable impressions.” Our InView slider, released at the same time, was the first ad unit to test 99% viewable by comScore.
 We have just been waiting for the industry to figure out how much money was being wasted. And sure enough, 2015 has been the year in which ad fraud and its cousin viewability have become major concerns.
They existed before, but there was tacit agreement that not much could be done, and besides, no one knew what percentage of ads were either not viewable or fraudulent. But it was only a matter of time before our ability to mine and manipulate the data associated with advertising transactions began to surface the extent of the problem.
 According to Ad Age, 30% of all programmatic ad buys could be fraudulent, and 90% of the fraudulent traffic is coming from bots. This fraudulent traffic costs the industry as much as $1 million a day, says DoubleVerify. What doesn’t come from bots is due to video fraud, which is more difficult to spot and even harder to get rid of.
We don’t have that either. And on the viewability side of the fence, we’ve just completed a test with MOAT, one of the only certified vendors to track both display and video viewability.
While the Media Rating Council sanctioned buying on viewability last year, the IAB has recently set a standard of only 70% viewability for this year because many vendors couldn’t get much higher. Indeed, MOAT told us the industry benchmark was 62%.
Our ads? 90% in view, and that would be higher again if we didn’t deal with other networks.
 Sure, self-serving blog posts aren’t the best way to get the information out, but there are only a finite number of hours in the day for our sales teams to spend contacting people who don’t yet know how badly they need us and how much we can help them.

Will Infinite Scrolling and Lazy Loading Help Publishers?

If there’s anything that can convince you that times are changing –again–in the online advertising business, it’s the relatively new practice of “lazy loading” pages. Unless you’re deep in the weeds of the business, you may not even know what this term means, but it is a new way to make pages load faster, and ironically may also be a way to make ads more visible.

In the old days of web design, the job of a good browser was to load an entire web page at one time, no matter how many outside calls and redirects the server has to make, as quickly as possible. Even if the user isn’t on that part of the page, the browser would load it anyway. That’s why everyone demanded to be above the fold.

But web design has changed. Now there’s just in time loading, or “lazy loading,”  a relatively new method of web design that renders the page on an as-needed basis,  only when a user is scrolling down to that piece of content.

Lazy loading pages are perfect for our InView Slider formats, which work especially well on web pages that are designed for infinite scrolling (which most new high traffic sites favor.)The content available to the user isn’t all loaded at once, because it would take forever; rather, the page renders as the user scrolls to it, and if you don’t scroll down, the content isn’t rendered.  So lazy loading any web content, ads included, means the web server only provides the necessary source code to the browser as the user needs it.That’s what makes our InView Slider so “polite.”

The New York Times switched to lazy loading and achieved a 50% improvement in the performance of its pages. In its blog, the Times said it switched to stop its pages from being slowed down by advertising.

Why is this good for viewability?

From the publisher standpoint,

aside from the performance benefits of lazy loading ad content … is the happy consequence that every ad view is also visible to the user, since the content is only rendered when the user is scrolling the content into view.  While it’s true there’s still a lingering debate over how viewability is measured – this Digiday postgives a good overview on the complexities of each viewability vendor using different methodologies to measure the same MRC standard (50% of the ad content in-view for at least one second) – there’s no question that a lazy loading strategy is far superior to traditional content rendering in terms of ensuring your ad requests are viewable.

Although viewability metrics probably won’t be the gold standard for billing in the near term, eventually they probably will be. The downside of this is the potential loss of inventory to the publisher. However, lazy loading their pages could let publishers  keep user-friendly page layouts and not worry as much about 3rd party viewability measurement. And, of course, the viewability would improve even further if the site published high quality content that encouraged engagement.

It’s funny how everything boils down to high quality at the end of the day.

 

New comScore Report Underscores Viewability Metric

The new report from comScore, ”The Digital Future in Focus 2013,″ had some surprising numbers about how fast the digital media market is growing.

A staggering 5.3 trillion display ad impressions were delivered in the U.S. throughout 2012, with Q4 seeing the most at 1.4 trillion – up 6 percent from the previous year. Closing out the year with the greatest number of impressions delivered were advertisers belonging to the Online Media, Retail, and Finance categories, led by InterActiveCorp, Netflix and State Farm Group.

The top ten advertisers online were AT&T with 104.8 billion ad impressions in 2012. Microsoft, which debuted Windows 8 and the Surface tablet this year with 47.4 billion impressions, rose several spots from 2011. Experian Interactive ranked third with 45.1 billion impressions. Newcomers to the display ad leaderboard included State Farm (35.7 billion impressions), Weight Watchers (34.2 billion impressions), Walt Disney Company (27.0 billion impressions) and Procter & Gamble (26.7 billion impressions).
In addition to the big advertisers, the election in Q4 turned digital media into the same battleground we saw on television. The Romney campaign delivered more than a billion display ads, while Obama, who began advertising earlier, peaked at 2.5 billion.

And along with the growth of programmatic buying, 2012 also saw the the proliferation of non-standard ad units, especially for tablets and mobile devices.

The following two things stood out in comScore’s research.
1) “The U.S. online video market also shows signs of maturing from a consumption standpoint, but monetization is picking up steam …., while traditional media players are finding success with carrying TV commercial content. With the demand for high-impact video advertising exceeding the available inventory, look for the online video market to continue its strong monetization momentum – particularly as targeting improves.”
2) comScore research also showed that “an average of 3 in 10 ads are never rendered in-view, leading to significant waste, weaker campaign performance and a glut of poor-performing inventory that imbalances the supply-and-demand equation and depresses CPMs.”

ZEDO High impact formats address both of these key points raised by comScore. We define High Impact Formats as a way for the advertiser to give us standard creative (728×90, 300×250, 160×600 or a TV commercial) for ZEDO to serve on the page.

ZEDO’s Full Screen TV Ads address the first key point in comScore research; they are a way to run TV commercials on high quality brand-safe content sites.

This format is not just a small pre-roll format and not confined to the very limited over-priced inventory associated with brand-safe pre-roll. Instead ZEDO serves the ads on the best sites and they are viewed full screen by the viewer – just like TV. The advertisers love this: easy to buy (just send the TV commercial video file), brand safe sites, lower cost and higher reach than pre-roll and it plays full screen.

ZEDO’s InView format addresses the second point in the comScore research. Simply put we guarantee 99% viewability. Brand advertisers love this – and buy as much as they can get.