Anyone who works in ad tech knows how much the industry loves its jargon.
Here are some quick explanations for a whole bunch of ad tech and media buzzwords that were thrown around this year, so you can gain a working knowledge in minutes.
Note: Many of these have been covered more extensively in our explainers before.
- What: ‘Written-word’ media houses and publishers investing heavily in creating video content.
- Why: Because video inventory (on mobile and desktop) is selling like hotcakes and they want in on the action.
- How: By laying off writers to create video teams instead, as MTV News, Mic, Vocativ, Fox Sports, and a few others reportedly did. Mashable is testing the model. Reddit announced its own investment in video.
The fad (for that’s what it is) has had the side-effect of audience shrinkage. According to comScore data, the publishers that pivoted to video this summer have seen at least a 60 percent drop in their traffic in August compared to the same period from a year ago. It’s not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship, but the numbers still look disheartening for publishers who jumped in without a long-term, cohesive video strategy in place.
- What: General Data Protection Regulation, and its subsections, the EU ePrivacy directive or EU cookie directive, will be applicable to all companies who have EU residents as customers or audiences come May 2018. The updated directive redefines “how businesses and public offices will collect, store, and use personal user data (including IP addresses and cookie tracking).” It will also set standards for data security including data audit and assessment, protection policies, and documentation. Fines of 4% of global revenue or $22 Million (whichever is higher) can be levied for non-compliance.
- Why: To regulate how companies collect users’ data online and give users more control over how their data is stored, shared, and used.
- How: EU consumers will be able to set their online privacy settings via browsers and mobile apps (with options to allow all, some, or no cookies) for tracking.
Read about the scope and implications of the new protection laws in our GDPR Explainer.
The current adoption of ads.txt among publishers is 12.8%.
- What: Publishers tell advertisers about the platforms (SSPs, ad networks, ad exchanges) that are allowed to sell their inventory, directly or as a reseller, through a text document. Credit due to IAB.
- Why: So that inventory that’s not yours (but pretending to be) won’t take away advertiser dollars that were intended for you; this is called domain spoofing. The latest victim of this is Financial Times. Jessica Davies of Digiday reports, “The publisher has found display ads against inventory masquerading as FT.com on 10 separate ad exchanges and video ads on 15 exchanges, even though the FT doesn’t even sell video ads programmatically, with 300 accounts selling inventory purporting to be the FT’s. The scale of the fraud uncovered is vast — the equivalent of one month’s supply of bona fide FT.com video inventory was fraudulently appearing in a single day. The FT has estimated the value of the fraudulent inventory to be £1 million ($1.3 million) a month.”
- How: Upload a text document in your domain’s root folder, listing all exchanges/networks that you are selling inventory on. Here’s a quick Ads.txt explainer for more info.
- What: Advertisers object to having their ads placed anywhere near “objectionable” content; demanding that ad tech companies provide them controls so they can check where their ads appear.
- Why: Thanks to years of indiscriminately buying ad space, advertisers’ ads ended up next to violent, extremist content. It wouldn’t have been an issue. But Times Inc. reported it, resulting in public outrage at brands and ad tech platforms for enabling the spread of such content. Advertisers, afraid of the public outrage, pull their budgets from Google. They returned only when Google assured them that strict controls were being put in place to ensure this never happened again.
- How: Mostly through exchange-wide whitelists and blacklists, or through ad verification companies which ensure competitive separation and attempt to check fraud. But all major ad tech companies are taking steps to block all advertising on content about Piracy and Copyright Theft, Criminal Skills / Hacking, Spam URLs, Torrent Repositories, Hate Speech, Adult Content, Redirects, etc.
- What: Take the principle behind Bitcoin and use it for ad tech… record and store every single digital ad transaction in encrypted ‘blocks’, with details shared with every user / publisher / exchange on the network in real time.
- Why: So both buyer and seller can have access to virtually-tamper-proof data about deals, click-through rates, impression-specs, etc., — without the middlemen (ad tech companies as they are today) controlling or manipulating it.
- How: Many different approaches are in development, most currently inhibited by technology. Read about blockchain to find out more.
First Price Auctions
- What: Exchanges implement a “Pay what you bid” model for all advertisers on their platform.
- Why: Because fair second price auctions don’t exist anymore. Exchanges manipulate auctions with soft floors or fake bids so that second-price auctions often close near the first price anyway. Many conduct first price auctions without notifying buyers or exchanges.
- How: Exchanges come out in public about their first price auction models. Buyers will know exactly what they bid (and are supposed to pay). Criteo already does it for header bidding inventory (with Direct Bidder). Rubicon and Pubmatic are testing the dynamics on limited inventory. So are AppNexus, Index Exchange, and OpenX.
And when we talk of smoking out the platforms that rely on underhanded auction manipulation…
Supply Path Optimization
Here’s our full explainer on supply path optimization.
- What: Advertisers (DSPs) optimize their supply sources with the aim to find the most cost-effective way (low cost per acquisition, high conversion rate) to a publisher’s inventory. The term was coined by Brian O’Kelley (CEO, AppNexus) back in 2016.
- Why: Rising buy-side costs from header bidding and bad auction behavior (see first price auctions above). Buyers can now get a publisher’s inventory on multiple exchanges. They can now cut costs by getting rid of exchanges that charge high fees or fiddle with auctions.
- How: O’Kelley shares the results of SPO experiments on publishers’ inventory in this post. Next up is developing, automating, and implementing the tech across their exchange (AppNexus). Meanwhile, he advises publishers to remember that aggressive SSPs, while greatly increasing revenue in short-term, may actually be hurting a website’s buyer-side performance metrics significantly. Eventually, this drives them to move ad spend away from the website, and publisher revenue suffers as a result.
He also advises HB publishers to keep the wrapper separate from header bidding demand partners. Use an open source solution like prebid.js or ones that won’t mess with your auction dynamics.
About 95 percent of ESPN’s programmatic buying is managed through PMPs.
— Yuyu Chen, brands reporter, Digiday
- What: Programmatic environment where publishers invite selected buyers to bid on their inventory. Here’s a programmatic deal type explainer (with pros and cons for publishers) for easy comparison with other deal types.
- Why: So publishers can have more control over their inventory and sales. There’s also the matter of demand since most brand advertisers are flocking to private auctions as inventory quality can be better guaranteed.
- How: By controlling which buyers participate in auctions, how to treat certain few (preferred deals), the kind of data to share (along with inventory) and executing a campaign fairly. We’ve covered the topic in detail (from ops POV) before in the post.
Server-to-Server Header Bidding
- What: Instead of user’s browser, your S2S header bidding tech partner calls your demand sources, retrieves their bids, conducts a unified auction, and sends the winning bid to your ad server—significantly faster than the user’s browser would.
- Why: To improve page load times and UX. S2S header bidding significantly cuts down latency that stacks up with every new demand source added to a client-side (browser) header bidding wrapper.
- How: As the page loads, only one request is sent (to the S2S header bidding provider). Their server sends the impression specs and bid requests to integrated demand partners and takes care of heavy-lifting.
Ad Verification and Measurement
- What: Buy-side tech for verifying that the impressions bought appear on intended sites for targeted audience. Covers context, geo-targeting, competitive separation, fraud detection, viewability measurement, etc.
- Why: “Too many players grading their own homework” as Marc Pritchard calls it. Advertisers want standardized (read: MRC-accredited) verification across the board for objective measurement to ensure that they’re getting viewability, audience, reach, and frequency that they paid for.
- How: DSPs, ad exchanges/networks, and SSPs all (supposedly) integrate with one or more verification companies (like DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science, Moat, WhiteOps, etc.) to check inventory sources for fraud before onboarding them as supply partners.