It hasn’t been long since the world was first struck by the 2020 pandemic. The unprecedented events (some of which have still not dissipated completely) forced, and in some cases, encouraged people to look for unconventional solutions. 

It was the same with the ad tech industry. While some publishers were provided with new lucrative opportunities, some struggled to monetize their websites. All in all, the industry witnessed various new trends, some of which are expected to continue in the future as well. 

To get a better lay of the land, we talked to Nick Platonenko, CEO at VlogBox, which specializes in video content distribution and monetization. The company majorly focuses on serving targeted ads to OTT/CTV users.

Nick talked to us about the various developments that occured in 2020, what strategies can publishers adopt in the coming months, and trends in the industry that he found interesting. He also shed light on the approaching cookie demise and how publishers can take measures to stay ahead of the game. 

Q.1. What are some key developments that you observed with publishers during the pandemic’s onset in 2020? What could have been prevented, and what was totally beyond control?

The previous year was multifaceted. For some, it brought new opportunities, and for others some lost. Specifically, 2020 in the ad tech industry was marked as a starting point for implementation regularities aimed at strengthening users’ privacy. And it has nothing to do with the pandemic as the movement towards the protection of the users’ data had already been a matter of discussion and privacy laws had already been introduced in the US (the California Consumer Privacy Act) and Europe (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation). 

In early 2020, Firefox and Safari had already been blocking third-party cookies by default, and Google only announced it was joining this initiative and its total adoption by 2022. It means publishers are forced to change their strategies since the traditional approaches to audience outreach have become no longer effective. For publishers, this situation with identity and privacy is a great challenge. So, they are struggling to stay afloat and shifting the focus to the creation of steadfast and trusting relationships with their audience. It enables publishers to run ad campaigns using first-party data.

What is more, the popularity of CTV and OTT in 2020 erupted. The stay-at-home reality enhanced the popularity of streaming services and video content delivery over the digital TV ecosystem, as well as facilitating the boost of gaming in connected TV. The development of brand channels and channel aggregators maximize the opportunities for publishers to enhance their outreach since they obtain new platforms and logically new audiences. We could observe the growing numbers of viewership every month, so it affected the appearance of the new watch patterns, which in turn, demanded the adoption of effective ways of advertising.  

Once travelling was put on pause, advertising in this field has been undergoing certain difficulties which could mean incremental revenue drops for publishers. This is an example of what we could not change or prevent. Publishers couldn’t foresee or even stop the crisis, but we managed to make the most out of the current situation and prevent a decrease ​in revenue. Usage of new formats, verticals, and placements allows us to compensate for a possible drop in inventory value. 

What also lies beyond our control is fraud in the CTV and OTT landscape, specifically when the resilient cookie ecosystem is disappearing into oblivion and the industry is only recently on its way to the adoption of new ad-fraud norms. The supply chain of ad serving will become harder to optimize, so it might result in malicious activities. In 2020, the damage to domain spoofing and other trading ad spaces actions reached $26 billion. Waiting for the development and making attempts towards a unified anti-fraud system are all we can do to get through these turbulent times. 

Q.2. What are some ad formats and strategies that publishers must rely upon in the upcoming months?

Placing video ads on CTV is a win-win strategy as the popularity of videos will only grow not only in the upcoming months but also in the following years. Publishers are playing the long game, and they should definitely experiment with different types of ad formats, as well as keep in mind up-to-date ad formats like interactive ads. Their purpose is to encourage audience engagement with the ad content instead of passively consuming it. When choosing among pre-rolls, mid-rolls, and post-rolls, if the task is to build friendly relations with viewers, skippable pre-rolls and midrolls take the first place.

When it comes to publishers and advertisers’ strategies, you must have already plunged into SPO and DPO, that allow you to increase effectiveness, whether it’s a greater reach across quality audiences and inventory or a higher yield. The main purpose of SPO is to bridge the gap between publishers and advertisers in order to innovate and align strategically. Through this collaboration of advertisers and their tech providers, the former can leverage their buying power. SPO strategy allows for improving of quality, enhancing of rates, and optimizing of CPMs. Thus, agencies and advertisers can effectively manage their costs and improve performance.  

As for DPO, the strategy enables for the regulation of how impressions and advertisements are sold. Publishers and their resellers can track bid paths and the way impressions are purchased. Owing to this information, publishers can train buyers on how to garner impressions at the best prices and win more auctions. DPO also allows publishers to obtain more favourable terms for themselves when cooperating with their partners and thus improving user experience in case of low quality, disruption, or slow loading ads. The number of SSPs that publishers are going to work with, the more SSP partners, say three or four, they would have to deal with. This is the way SSPs and brands react to the growth of SPO with DPO, linking up with the platforms of agencies and brands where they will utilize their inventory.

Q.3. If you could give one advice to web publishers on ad inventory monetization, what would it be?

Draw on analytics and attribution when looking to ramp up ad inventory monetization. These two key factors forge a firm footing for further investment and a better understanding of processes. Additionally, attribution and analytics bring advertising and monetization to the next level. Analysis and comparison of  bounce rates, sessions, geos, device type, and many other metrics accounting for the inventory, enables publishers to raise awareness of the further actions and ways to improve the inventory value.

Let’s not forget that publishers can act as advertisers themselves. Thus, by understanding the origin of the traffic, for instance when we deal with an OTT channel, we can differentiate organic viewers from the paid ones. Based on in-detail analysis, publishers can build a sophisticated strategy for channel promotion in the world of competitive apps.

Q.4. Given that third-party cookies are soon to be deprecated, what are some alternatives that publishers can rely on in your opinion? 

I would suggest a privacy sandbox, a unified publisher network, a standardized user token, and contextual advanced TV advertising. All these options perform different functions but yet can be effective. A privacy sandbox enables publishers to design a sustainable site that respects users’ privacy and collects information without intrusive tracking. The technology applies to aggregators, which accumulate data about groups, not individuals.

A unified publisher network is another solution to dispense with cookies but still make a profit. The technology collects your database of first-party cookies via API and doesn’t share this information with third-party websites. Also, it may be a standardized user token so the technology applies the user’s privacy settings and doesn’t allow the sharing of user information without the user’s consent.

Finally, contextual advertising comes back with new unparalleled opportunities for publishers. As 44% of respondents state that they have tried a new brand after watching a relevant ad, this technology specifically comes in handy. Contextual ads fit the content they are shown in and focus on interest rather than invading viewers’ privacy. The integration of AI fosters the analysis between the web page content and users’ intent automatically and allows them to place ads based on this data. 

Q.5. What are some technical tools that you think publishers should swear by?

The market of technical tools abounds, and it’s really exhausting to get the worthy ones. 

  • My first advice for publishers, before we jump into the tools, would be to think of the platforms for content distribution. In the case of video publishers, I’d single out YouTube, Vimeo, VlogBox and other CTV distribution and monetization platforms. Connection to the top SSPs and use of header-bidding will facilitate the buying-selling process and increase the revenue.
  • Secondly, opt for tried-and-true apps and programs. 
    • GeoEdge, which has been present on the market since 2010, protects the user experience from malicious activities. It empowers publishers to maximize revenue diminishing different kinds of risks on the web. 
    • The next tool you should use is a VPN proxy that comes to mind is Pangeo. This premium VPN proxy offers testing tools for thorough QA services, as well as other solutions for ad verification and security in the advertising ecosystem. 
    • Attribution tools. In order to track one’s own performance, I’d recommend using attribution and analytics software like  Kochava, Attriboost, and Adjust. In addition, in the CTV ecosystem in particular,  channel owners or OTT publishers can use native streaming platform dashboards like Roku reporting in order to obtain basic analytics on performance.. 

As we’ve already mentioned, privacy remains the top priority. We also expect vast  integration of advanced technologies like 360-degree video content, augmented reality and virtual reality into different placements. These interactive technologies are becoming more popular, and offer endless opportunities for experimentation. In 2021, the number of mobile AR users is expected to reach over 800 million and is forecast to grow up to 1.73 billion by 2024. Therefore,  investment in AR and VR ensures profitable opportunities for all parties.  

Moreover, interactive ads and gamification will only develop in the years to come since these types of ads serve as a new way to draw viewers’ attention and gain the desired marketing goals. Unlike traditional video ads, the interactive ones can drive a 47% lift in time spent with the ad. As indie game channels on connected devices have shown a streaming growth in 2020-2021, now there is a room for work on product placements, interactive ads during games accessible through remotes as well as more familiar but highly targeted pre-rolls, mid-rolls and post-rolls. In addition, according to Samsung Ads, gamers have added 20 minutes of playing time per day, which turned out to be approximately 1 hour 56 min daily, while playing during weekday mornings doubled in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Together with streaming it covers 82%, which means this audience is hard to reach through traditional TV. Building on the back of these facts, we can guess the overall statistics within other streaming services and consider a gaming vector to be a promising field in CTV and mobile advertising and monetization development, from advanced targeting options to improved analytics and new formats.

About Nick Platonenko

Nick Platonenko, currently the CEO at VlogBox, is an expert at OTT/CTV app development. VlogBox is a video monetization platform that helps publishers and advertisers distribute their video content. Along with ad monetization, it also specializes in app development.


Shubham is a digital marketer with rich experience working in the advertisement technology industry. He has vast experience in the programmatic industry, driving business strategy and scaling functions including but not limited to growth and marketing, Operations, process optimization, and Sales.

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