Happy Friday! 29.03.2019

The Viewability Paradox

Happy Friday!

The last week of Q1 has been a busy one, below is a recap of all of the key news that is shaping our industry.

We could only start one place this: Reports that Twitter’s MoPub was exploited (potentially for months) by an Ad-Fraud scheme that used a technique called stacking to trick buyers into purchasing ads that were never seen.

Clearly verification remains important within the AdTech ecosystem & next we look at interesting research from Redbud that highlights this tech isn’t without downsides, it can create latency & ironically cause problems with viewability for publishers.

Next in what some commentators have called “another blow to the agency model” we look at news that worlds 4th largest advertiser Unilever is brokering deals with media owners & creating its own “Trusted Network” of publishers, which focuses not just on price but the qualitative aspects of media. Interesting times.

Finally we turn our attention to the news of the Adobe & Roku partnership which will bring CRM data & enhanced targeting to OTT advertising. This is such an exciting space at the moment & I thought it was a great way to round off this week’s & indeed this quarter’s news.


Twitter’s MoPub Exploited By Ad-Fraud Scheme

Last week we saw news that Russian hackers were trying to sell access to a well known Ad-Server. This week a scoop from @CraigSilverman found that Twitter’s exchange MoPub was exploited by an Ad-Fraud scheme & shows just how much damage can be done if malicious actors gain access to an AdTech platform:

The scheme was uncovered by fraud detection firm Protected Media & implicated Aniview an Israeli AdTech business with offices in New York. But Aniview have denied involvement saying their platforms were “exploited” by a malicious third party. Whatever happened, Protected Media found a significant portioned of these ads were sold via MoPub.

The scheme used a technique called Ad-Stacking a process where the person committing fraud places one ad on top of another creating a “stack” these ads are never seen by a person but register as being served & viewed.

MoPub is not alleged to be directly involved in the scheme, but it does mean fraudsters circumvented the inventory quality measures/SIVT filtering they had in place & in theory it also means they could have inadvertently profited from fraud.

To me this story highlights that even the worlds biggest tech companies are not immune from Ad-Fraud & underlines the importance of verification businesses in online advertising. Speaking of which…

The Viewability Paradox

Verification remains incredibly important within the AdTech ecosystem because of exploits like those mentioned above. However recent research from @RedBudPartners shows that beyond the financial cost of this tech to buyers, there’s a hidden cost to the sellside, latency:

Their research which looked at 15 of the top 20 publishers in the U.K. found that brand safety, viewability & verification tags represented a staggering 10 percent of the total weight of a website on average & in some instances RedBud found the figure was double this.

RedBud said that this additional load added around 1 second latency to page load times, but some publishers commented that viewability, brand safety & verification tags were causing up to six seconds page latency on desktop. Interestingly leading verification business Integral Ad Science was highlighted as causing the biggest issues with page latency due to the number of calls it makes per ad.

Page load times impact user experience which may cause users to leave the site so it will be interesting to see whether AdTech vendors can improve the situation in the short term, or if businesses will wait for ever increasing connection speeds to alleviate the challenge.

In the interim given latency can cause issues with viewability itself, publishers will remain concerned because increasingly they are being asked by buyers to give advertisers great deals not just on price, but also to guarantee the qualitative aspects of media. Speaking of which…

Unilever Is Building Direct Relationships With Publishers

The worlds 4th largest advertiser, Unilever is building out a network of trusted partners with a view to boosting media quality & accountability:

The behemoth has said that it will prioritize the spend of its trading desk into the network of global, regional & local sites who meet their criteria for quality & accountability.

It is reported that to be included in the network the publisher will need to offer guarantees on viewability, brand safety & ad fraud. Interesting rather being simply focussed on price & the typical qualitative metrics referenced above Unilever are reported to be looking to reward publishers that share additional data with them such as dwell times & page views. This should be net positive for quality news sites etc.

Unilever have said their overall digital spends in this area will remain constant, but the shape of their investment will change. According to their Global SVP of Media they will still buy in the open marketplace but “Trusted Publishers are the priority, and we’ll be increasing our investment in a network based on deeper relationships.”

This will be no doubt music to the ears of publishers who can meet the criteria, especially if media is transacted via models where take rates are lower & more money ends up with working media. Unilever stated last year that they saved 30% by bringing some production in house, it will be interesting if they find similar efficiencies here & also to see how agencies react to having a new scaled buyer in the market.

Adobe & Roku Partner On OTT Targeting

Here’s an opportunity to end on a high note, news that Adobe & Roku are partnering to help advertisers deliver better targeted ads via OTT:

A new partnership will let Adobe's clients target ads in Roku using their clients' first-party data such as email lists. The data will then be matched up with Roku's own viewer data such as credit card data, email addresses, and viewing habits.

This will allow advertisers to more effectively engage with Roku’s 27 Million OTT Viewers & beyond smart things like CRM matching it will help advertisers get the basics right, such as setting a solid frequency cap, helping maximize reach by ensuring that viewers are not bombarded over and over with the same advert.

The OTT space is fascinating at the moment & it’ll be really interesting to see if Adobe can broker similar partnerships elsewhere, it’s equally interesting to watch Xandr’s approach to the market, the latest news is that their products may be used by Viacom:

There’s so much going on it almost feels like the space warrants its own newsletter! Let me know if any of you fancy a newsletter called Happy Monday focussed exclusively on this burgeoning area of AdTech…

Lots of interesting news again this week, here’s what we didn’t have room to cover:

1) McDonald’s Buys AdTech firm Dynamic Yield to personalize menus

2) IAB Europe tightens consent management framework & raises fees

3) Xaxis Global CEO Nicolas Bidon discusses the programmatic landscape

Okay that’s the newsletter done for another week & thank you for making it this far!

If you want to get in touch

Twitter here: @SimonJHarris

Or LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/in/simonjulianharris/

If you know someone who might like to receive next weeks newsletter send them here:


Thanks & have a lovely weekend