Apple is rattling ad tech with Safari’s anti-tracking moves

On its earnings call last week, retargeting firm Criteo revealed that Apple’s crackdown on ad tracking hurt its business more than expected. In the wake of the announcement, the performance of Criteo’s stock resembled its downward swooping logo as its shares tumbled 26 percent within hours. Since Criteo’s entire business is driven by retargeting and they are the most recognizable vendor in that category, the company is the poster child for how Apple’s ad-tracking changes affect ad tech. But while Apple’s anti-tracking moves may hit Criteo the hardest, other vendors like attribution companies and data platforms that also rely on ad targeting for portions of their business are caught in the crossfire of Apple’s customer privacy campaign. Continue reading “Apple is rattling ad tech with Safari’s anti-tracking moves”

Major publishers have fallen victim to domain spoofing: can your business avoid the same fate?

By John Murphy, ‎VP, marketplace quality, OpenX

Recent news stories have shone an important light onto the pervasive issue of counterfeit advertising defrauding brands and robbing publishers of deserved revenue. The practice began receiving mainstream attention following the announcement by the Financial Times that they had found millions of dollars worth of counterfeit ad space being offered by at least six technology companies to unsuspecting brands. Continue reading “Major publishers have fallen victim to domain spoofing: can your business avoid the same fate?”

WTF is ads.cert?

Cleaning up the digital ad supply chain is now the rallying cry for most of the digital media industry, with publishers, brands, agencies and ad tech vendors all piling in.

That drive toward transparency has made the somewhat dryly named ads.txt a hot topic in media. Momentum behind ads.txt adoption is increasing, with 44 percent of publishers that run digital advertising implementing it by the end of October.

But ads.txt is not bulletproof against ad fraud. Human errors like misspelling supply-side platform names in ads.txt files have wrongly penalized exchanges from having their inventory being picked up. Plus, most ads.txt files don’t specify the type of inventory — display, video or native — a vendor is allowed to sell. That means display inventory can still be repackaged as video, for example, to boost CPMs.

These issues have given rise to a new awkwardly named upgrade: ads.cert. Here’s an explainer.

Continue reading “WTF is ads.cert?”

Podcast ads remain stubbornly old-fashioned

In November, HowStuffWorks dumped the third-party ads in its podcasts. After spending most of 2017 trying to use ad networks to insert spots into its back catalog, which accounts for half of HSW’s monthly listens, the podcast publisher decided to abandon them. Instead, the company went back to monetizing the old-fashioned way: ads read by its shows’ hosts, an age-old format that started in terrestrial radio and remains the dominant form of advertising in podcasts.

“Our listeners didn’t love the experience,” said Jason Hoch, HowStuffWorks chief content officer. “They often felt like they were being shouted at.” Continue reading “Podcast ads remain stubbornly old-fashioned”

15-second countdown ads could be the new killer format

Luxury Italian retailer Yoox has announced it is running an exciting new type of pre-roll ad on YouTube: 15-second buy-it-or-lose-it offers. The company will be runnign the ads until mid-December in a few regions globally.

The ads are 15-second countdowns featuring a unique product, so. The user has to make a decision to buy on the spot or they will lose out and the item will be offered to someone else. Even if they go looking for it later, they won’t be able to find the product on the Yoox website, as it will have been exclusive to the pre-roll ad. To add to the tension, the creative depicts impending threats to the product to bring the countdown to life, so the ad positions the item as needing “saving” from dangers such as laser beams creeping towards it.

Continue reading “15-second countdown ads could be the new killer format”

The state of the ad industry’s preparations for the GDPR, in 4 charts

Just over six months are left until the enforcement deadline for Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Companies are making their final preparations for the far-reaching data privacy law after making wholesale changes to how they process and store data. Now, the onus is on marketers to figure out how to communicate a value exchange with their customers that makes sharing data feel natural and meaningful.

Here are four charts on the state of the ad industry’s readiness for the GDPR. Continue reading “The state of the ad industry’s preparations for the GDPR, in 4 charts”

‘We don’t know what’s going on in our wrapper’: Publishers’ candid thoughts about ad tech

This week, 300 publishing and ad tech executives gathered at the Digiday Programmatic Media Summit in New Orleans to discuss the biggest challenges in programmatic on the sell side. Conference attendees and speakers shared candid thoughts, not for attribution, in working group meetings and over drinks. Publishers’ major concerns include deficient reporting from their header bidding vendors, as well as difficulties in developing in-house products and scaling private marketplaces. Excerpts of what we heard offstage at the event appear below.

PMPs are hard to scale
“It’s a plateau for big publishers, but small publishers or local media companies are still playing catch-up.” Continue reading “‘We don’t know what’s going on in our wrapper’: Publishers’ candid thoughts about ad tech”

Facebook’s charm offensive for AR advertisers gains speed

Facebook is trying to drum up early support among advertisers for its push into augmented reality. The recruitment pitch started three months ago, when a group of 30 advertisers and agencies, including Nike, StudioCanal and TSB, were given access to a closed beta program to create AR campaigns. Now, around 700 advertisers and agencies, including British retailer John Lewis and digital production agency Stink Studios, are creating interactive photo and video effects for the new Facebook camera feature. Other agencies like Possible, We Are Social and Ralph are waiting to use the feature, as it seems Facebook is being selective about which partners it involves early on. Continue reading “Facebook’s charm offensive for AR advertisers gains speed”


In the end, traditional and digital-native publishers are trying to figure out the exact same things: (1) how to effectively monetize their audiences (the timeless publishing challenge) and (2) how to eke out an existence in a digital advertising ecosystem dominated by the Google-Facebook duopoly. These are existential challenges for every publisher.

How publishers are getting fooled by ads.txt fraud

Now that ads.txt is gaining traction, it is inevitably running into kerfuffles.

Publishers say that third-party sellers like Thrive+, Ludius Media and SelectMedia asked to be listed on their ads.txt files, even though the publishers did not have direct relationships with these companies. These vendors say they were merely trying to form direct relationships with the publishers whose inventory they were reselling. In response to reporting on this subject, the politics publisher Salon removed Thrive+’s name from its ads.txt file, SpotX and LKQD terminated their relationship with the reseller, and OpenX sent an email out to its publisher clients that called the whole thing a “scam.” Continue reading “How publishers are getting fooled by ads.txt fraud”

‘It’s not the silver bullet’: Media buyers see limits on the impact of ads.txt

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s ads.txt initiative, which is a text file on publishers’ web server listing their authorized inventory sellers, is thought by ad buyers to be a solid step forward in fighting against ad fraud, only there are still kinks to work out.

A basic flaw: Publishers may misspell authorized sellers in their ads.txt files, and how many demand-side platforms actually started implementing ads.txt to stop buying inventory from unauthorized resells is unclear. And while ads.txt minimizes the possibility of counterfeit inventory, it can’t catch fraudulent impressions, and it doesn’t specify inventory format that an authorized seller can carry, media buyers said.

“Overall ads.txt is a great industry initiative, but I don’t think it is the silver bullet to solve all of our problems that we are hoping it might have been,” said Mike Moore, associate director of programmatic partnerships for GroupM. “There are inherent limitations in how ads.txt has initially been deployed and also ways we have seen exchanges and networks look to get around what ads.txt is intentioned to do.”

One limitation, Moore explained, is that since adding authorized sellers to the ads.txt file is still manual work for publishers, there are many human spelling errors that may lead to potential drop-offs of legit inventory sellers. For instance, Moore’s team recently found that there are at least 45 variations of how publishers label AppNexus and Google AdX in their ads.txt files. “DSPs may not be able to read those spelling mistakes, so they may miss legitimate sellers,” said Moore.

Another shortcoming, Moore added, is that ads.txt doesn’t specify the inventory format that an authorized seller can carry, so a supply-side platform can claim that it is a legit seller of a publisher’s video inventory, while in reality, the SSP is only authorized to sell the publisher’s display inventory, for instance. “This opens an opportunity for exchanges and SSPs to arbitrage inventory, disguising display as video,” said Moore.

Meanwhile, as adoption of ads.txt is taking off on the publisher side partly thanks to Google, it’s unclear if most DSPs will refer to ads.txt and stop buying inventory from unauthorized sellers accordingly. Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager, The Trade Desk, AppNexus and MediaMath have announced they will use ads.txt to filter unauthorized sellers, but it’s unclear how many other DSPs will fully integrate ads.txt into their platforms and be truthful in their reporting. After all, implementing ads.txt could mean a dent in their profits.

Jay Friedman, chief operating office for Goodway Group, said many DSPs have “integrated” ads.txt, and most of the time, media buyers will just take DSPs’ word for it. But if “integration” simply means downloading all the ads.txt files, reading the content and storing them somewhere to be referenced in auctions, that development process takes less than a week, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that DSPs are taking ads.txt seriously, according to Mani Gandham, co-founder and CEO for content marketing platform Instinctive.

“The question is whether DSPs are actually using the reference in auctions and rejecting unlisted sellers,” said Gandham. “It would immediately cut down on volume and profits, so I’m not sure they are, but it would take some testing to find out. I’m just generally wary when DSPs say they’ve implemented something that would make them less money.”

To be fair to ads.txt, it will likely cut down on the specific problem of domain spoofing, which remains a plague in programmatic. Ad networks are already trying to subvert ads.txt, and they wouldn’t have incentive to do this if ads.txt was totally ineffective.

For instance, an anonymous publisher executive wrote on Reddit this week that an inventory aggregator asked to be declared on the publisher’s ads.txt list in an email request. Marc Ropelato, director of programmatic revenue for Purch, said his team has received such emails from third-party companies that Purch doesn’t work with directly, but the publisher takes a very hard line.

“The entire purpose of this ads.txt file is to ensure that our inventory can be purchased by demand sources that we are actually authorizing to resell,” said Ropelato. “Interestingly enough, we have had some significant push from some of these third parties trying to get us to add their files.”

Brad Bernard, vp of digital strategy and innovation for agency Harmelin Media, thinks that where ads.txt falls short is it can’t detect fraudulent traffic, and publishers still need to be vigilant about whom they allow as their authorized sellers.

“If publishers don’t properly vet their own sellers, they may unwittingly be inviting a fox into the henhouse while giving the false sense of security to buyers,” said Bernard. “Meanwhile, [advertisers] still need to implement strong ad validation process and technology to ensure the impressions are human and viewable.”

The post ‘It’s not the silver bullet’: Media buyers see limits on the impact of ads.txt appeared first on Digiday.

‘Ignore it at your peril’: Ad-blocking costs top UK publishers an average of £500,000 per year

Ad blocking has moved from exponential to linear growth: The sky might not be falling, but ignore it at your peril. Skewed metrics are a major distraction for publishers trying to tackle this problem, but focusing on the financial losses is one route to encourage all parties to find a solution.

The UK Association of Online Publishers aggregated data from 40 members — AOP members include Condé Nast, ESI Media, Global, the Guardian and The Telegraph — and found that the average U.K. publisher is losing £500,000 ($660,000) a year due to ad blocking.

“People should be getting more passionate about this,” said Nick Flood, product and commercial operations director at Dennis Publishing. “People need to take this more seriously.”

In order to learn more about ad-blocking behavior and recovery, Dennis Publishing, Bauer, Autotrader and Haymarket plan to collectively run a hard ban on content early next year for ad-block users across their auto sites for a day. Hard blocks on general news sites tend to be ineffective because users can access the content elsewhere.

Dennis has had experience in banning ad-block users from accessing content. Flood said it’s seeing about 20 percent of its audience block ads, which is in line with other U.K. publishers. Dennis is asking ad-block users visiting site Carbuyer to disable their ad blockers or continue to view the site with ads. In recent tests, the publisher found that 70 percent of ad-block users continue to view the site with ads — the publisher uses an ad-recovery solution — while 30 percent disabled their ad blocker. It has also tested showing a 30-second video ad before people continue through to an ad-free site, which has had a 70 percent view-through rate, according to Flood.

“People will interact with you if you have content they want to engage with; you need to push that agenda,” he said at the AOP’s Inside Out conference in London this week. “You will lose people; 30 percent of our users bounced, but we weren’t monetizing them anyway.”

With the likelihood of more browser-based ad-blocking solutions around the corner and the anticipation that mobile ad blocking will grow, communicating with users is more effective than tackling ad-block developers and companies. “Rather than a cat-and-mouse game, it’s more like an in-browser knife fight,” said Flood.

Desktop rates in the U.K. appear to have stabilized. Studies from the Internet Advertising Bureau found that the percentage of U.K. adults blocking ads has held steady at 21 percent since February 2016. However, this could be because there has been a higher growth in ad blockers that block analytics, and mobile is accounting for more of publishers’ traffic.

“From a data perspective, I’ve always been concerned that we can’t accurately analyze our audience,” said Jo Holdaway, chief data officer at ESI Media. “It’s not just the loss of revenue but the loss of insight and inference about our audience.”

Around 20 percent of ESI Media’s audience blocks ads across The Independent and the Evening Standard. ESI Media has been monitoring ad-blocking rates before deciding on a firm strategy; it’s asking users politely to disable ad blockers, but the conversion is low. For Dennis, this soft approach only saw 3 percent of users engage.

Holdaway estimates that 30 percent of those who block ads are also blocking analytics. This corresponds with studies by Oriel, which provides ad-blocking solutions for publishers, across publishers using its technology. There has been a 125 percent increase from last year in analytics blocking, according to Oriel.

“On desktop, it might have stabilized, but don’t be complacent,” said Holdaway. “Ignore it at your peril.”

The post ‘Ignore it at your peril’: Ad-blocking costs top UK publishers an average of £500,000 per year appeared first on Digiday.

“Exceedingly generous”: Google will split revenue with publishers who use its new subscription tools

Google, an advertising giant, has been making nice with news publishers by developing a series of tools they can use to more precisely attract and target paid subscribers. (It also ended the first-click-free policy this month, allowing subscription-based publishers to choose how many articles to show to readers for free without search-ranking consequence.)

Google’s nice comes at a small business price for any publishers who might want to use the planned subscription tools, but the details are still being ironed out with publishers.

“It will obviously come down to what we think that business relationship should be, but bottom line, I think [revenue sharing] will be exceedingly generous [to news publishers],” Google’s head of news Richard Gingras told the Financial Times on Sunday. “In our ad environment, the rev shares are 70 per cent-plus. The rev shares [for publishers] will be significantly more generous than that.” (Google’s AdSense offers around a 70-30 split for publishers who use it to place ads on their sites.)

Gingras made sure to distinguish Google’s tack from Facebook’s “walled garden” approach, telling the FT that “unlike other participants in the environment, we’re not trying to own the publisher. If there are cases where we do cause the subscription to happen, we don’t want to own the customer. None of this changes the marketplace economics, people will pay for what they value.”

That “other participant in the environment” on Friday formally announced its test of news subscriptions models within its Instant Articles format, through which it won’t take any cut of the revenue from subscription signups (the subscription transaction and payment processing will take place entirely on the publishers’ site). Facebook’s subscription tests are Android-only, as it’s been wrestling with Apple over the past few months over Apple’s default 30 percent cut of “in-app sales,” Recode reported.

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