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  • Wattpad: ‘Campaigns Work When They Feel As Native As Possible’

    That teens have no attention span is a fallacy. Just ask Wattpad, a platform where people can write and share stories that they’ve written and solicit feedback from their community.The storytelling platform boasts a community of 60 million monthly active users, mainly teens, young adults and millennials under 30, who spend more than 15 billion minutes engaging with Wattpad content each month – that’s more than 28,500 years of engagement every 30 days.Authenticity stops thumbs, said Chris Stefanyk, Wattpad’s head of brand solutions, and that’s also what appeals to brand partners like GE, Coca-Cola and Mondelez looking to bask in the reflected glow.“The pitch to brand is very much around engagement,” Stefanyk said. “It’s difficult to capture a substantial amount of this audience’s time, so brands want to try and reach them where they already are.”The majority of the content on Wattpad is user-generated and serialized, with topics ranging from anime, action, science fiction and romance to fan fiction, poetry and the paranormal. Anyone over 13 can sign up for an account and a few writers on the platform have even achieved offline fame with book and movie deals.But branded content does just as well as organic, as long as the brand makes an effort to fit in.“Campaigns work when they feel as native as possible,” Stefanyk said.

    During the 2015 holiday season, for example, Coca-Cola sponsored a series of letters to Santa written by Wattpad influencers featuring their nicest or their naughtiest characters. Users ate it up, spending more than 60 minutes on average with the content. Numerous people left comments on Coke’s Wattpad profile begging for the brand to create more bonus content.

    And in a recent campaign to promote the young adult film “Wonder,” which is based on a book of the same name about a 10-year-old boy with facial deformities attending public school for the first time, Lionsgate worked with Wattpad to sponsor a writing contest about kindness. The winning entries were made into professional digital videos.

    Although it’s not possible for Wattpad to tie engagement on the platform to soda or ticket sales, that’s also not the point. Engagement and time spent are the primary KPIs.

    “Brands are spending billions of dollars to generate awareness, but we’re going a bit deeper than that – we’re generating real engagement,” Stefanyk said. “Sixty minutes with branded content – that’s a metric that really seems to amaze our brand partners.”

    Wattpad also works with third-party providers, like Nielsen, to give its brand partners more typical metrics, like brand affinity and favorability. According to Stefanyk, Wattpad has seen 30% to 40% lifts for some brands in likelihood to recommend among engaged users.

    Metrics like viewability, impressions and clicks are implied when users are reading a series of branded stories to completion and asking for more, he said.

    Beyond sponsorships and branded content opportunities, Wattpad offers more traditional advertising options, including in-story ads and brief videos interspersed within stories, as well as basic targeting options mainly based on gender, age, geo and context.

    But targeting by context rather than audience makes the most sense for Wattpad and for its brand partners, Stefanyk said.

    Syfy, for example, recently did a takeover of the science fiction category for its show “The Magicians,” and Warner Bros. did the same for the horror category to promote its movie, “It.” Users interested in those topics make the most sense to target regardless of age, gender or other targeting parameters.

    Every piece of content on Wattpad is tagged with detailed metadata for contextual targeting, and the company invests in machine learning to help with the labeling and the vetting for brand safety’s sake. Content that seems mature or risky isn’t monetized at all.

    “We want the whole ad experience to be tied back to the storytelling,” Stefanyk said. “If we do that, the ads aren’t jarring and they’re with content that makes sense. Our audience is more than OK with that.”

  • Publishers Find Themselves Caught Up In Brand Safety Nets

    Publishers Find Themselves Caught Up In Brand Safety Nets
    by Sarah Sluis

    Publishers are getting ensnared in the filters used by many advertisers to combat the YouTube brand safety crisis.

    Earlier this year, many brands found their ads running next to offensive content on the video platform, prompting marketers and their agencies to enlist third-party monitoring. Now publishers as a whole are feeling the effects.

    The filters sometimes flag content correctly, but other times, they create false positives or flag content that falls into a gray area of brand safety. And the methodologies used by third-party measurement providers vary, leading some brand safety filters to generate more false positives than others.

    AdExchanger spoke to publishers that have seen their content run afoul of filters designed to catch fake news and racy, violent, gambling or political content – and what, if anything, they’ve done about those tags.

    For these publishers, tracking the impact of these filters on a page-by-page basis is time-consuming and often opaque, but it’s clear enough to see the bottom-line impact.

    Brand safety filters, for example, can cause private marketplace campaigns to underdeliver and open marketplace CPMs to fall.

    Penalizing High-Risk Content

    Underdelivering private marketplaces first alerted Ranker to its brand safety issues. The entertainment site lets users vote on topics and lists, including some that are sexual or violent in nature, such as the hottest celebrities or the deadliest crimes.

    In early Q4, the publisher discovered that Integral Ad Science (IAS) was blocking all content on its site, even though only a minority of it fell into the adult or violence categories. When Ranker dug deeper, it discovered that many brands had pulled spend months earlier in Q2.

    “These brand safety vendors are doing the best they can, but in using broad strokes to solve the problem, they are creating collateral damage,” said Ranker CEO Clark Benson.

    Ranker’s problem stems from how IAS scores content. If articles about the cutest kittens and puppies are placed on the same domain as articles about hot women or the worst crimes, the kitten and puppy content will see its “adult” score inch up.

    “We don’t block entire domains, but because we penalize high-risk things more than low-risk things that benefit you, a site that posts one pornographic article a month will get penalized a lot,” explained Dave Marquard, VP of product at Integral Ad Science.

    Ranker also learned that some of its content was miscategorized after receiving vendor reports. An article about who might die next on “Game of Thrones,” for example, may be incorrectly flagged as violent content, or an actress named Fanny could likewise be flagged for an offensive keyword, noted Evan Krauss, Ranker’s SVP of global sales.

    To resolve the issue and boost its brand safety score, Ranker took extreme measures: It demonetized many articles with the worst brand safety scores. That approach was more tenable than another remedy that IAS suggests: isolating all articles that will fail brand safety screens under a sub-URL, such as That could jeopardize the site’s SEO rankings and hurt revenue even more.

    A Gambling-Lite Gray Area

    The brand safety thorn for PCH/Media relates to how the filters define gambling. PCH visitors play games to win a chance at entering its sweepstakes – the digital application of its famous Prize Patrol. Because PCH allows users to play blackjack and slots, brands who block “gambling” on their brand safety filters can’t buy ad inventory on those pages.

    “In our view, it’s completely brand-safe,” said Chris Moore, director of business development at PCH/Media. “There is no money exchanged on our site. Where we run into problems is around the contextual providers and brand safety companies of the world … who want to put a blanket over an entire category.”

    One large demand partner added a brand safety block in Q3 that cost PCH/Media $20,000 a day. PCH/Media made its case to the partner and finally saw some spend start to return this week – but that doesn’t offset months of lost revenue.

    Because PCH’s content falls in a gambling-lite gray area, it’s also encountered scenarios where brands that it’s dealt with for years suddenly can’t buy on some parts of its site. The brands say they are OK with PCH’s content, Moore said, so they place direct and private marketplace buys. But they can’t or won’t override their brand safety filters.

    Political Content Flags

    Intermarkets, which represents right-leaning politics and news sites such as The Drudge Report, also sees its content falling into gray areas around brand safety. The publisher has had to petition its removal from fake news lists, and it maintains close relationships with ad tech partners so it can troubleshoot and resolve issues quickly.

    Given its ability to successfully overturn site blocks after being flagged for fake news, the publisher is more troubled by advertisers that block all news or political content.

    “Some advertisers are going from saying they don’t want to be around political content to [avoiding] anything they don’t feel is shiny, happy and perfect,” said Erik Requidan, VP of sales and programmatic strategy at Intermarkets. “That’s a big division. And it’s hard to create a brand or have an environment that’s sterile, clean and happy when you’re breaking news.”

    Plus, filters don’t take into account how a controversial topic like white nationalism or Black Lives Matter is covered; they ding publishers simply for talking about it.

    “The stuff that makes [an article] newsworthy is what trips the filters,” Requidan said.

    A Tech Learning Curve

    The looming question is whether this problem of overly stringent brand safety filters will get worse or taper off.

    Will advertisers loosen or remove their filters in pursuit of scale and lower CPMs? Or will they keep the filters long after memories fade of ads running next to terrorism videos?

    “Between fraud, viewability and brand safety, it’s contextual accuracy that keeps the CEOs of agencies and brands up at night the most,” said Rob Rasko, CEO of consultancy 614 Group. “That’s the one where the phone call comes through, and that makes it the scariest.”

    It’s possible that publishers’ woes will decline as filtering technology improves. “There are not a lot of companies right now with the ability to get that taxonomy correct, but you should expect there to be more,” Rasko predicted.

    A provider like Grapeshot scans each page individually for keywords that might violate standard or custom brand safety settings. It wouldn’t use the presence of non-brand safe content on the same domain to downgrade content except in rare instances, like for a porn URL or a publisher that doesn’t allow its web crawlers, Oakins said.

    In contrast, Integral Ad Science’s algorithm accounts for adjacent URLs when scoring sites in addition to keywords, which can make bland content appear unsafe.

    “We look at a word like ‘shot’ in context,” said Daniel Oakins, Grapeshot’s global director of publishing. Using that approach lowers false positive rates.

    Prices for brand-safe ad inventory are rising, Oakins said: “I think CPMs have gone up to make up for the lack of available inventory to buy. People still want to buy, so quality, safe content will rise in value.”

    And that flight to brand safety may benefit direct-response advertisers, Ranker’s Benson predicted.

    “If direct-response advertisers don’t care about being on a page about Trump or death because they are looking for conversion metrics,” he said, “this should give them more competitive CPMs.”

  • Film Studio Open Road Marries TV And Mobile Data

    Film Studio Open Road Marries TV And Mobile Data
    by Kelly Liyakasa

    Data is changing the way movies are marketed.

    Studios like Open Road Films are taking a more targeted approach to marketing, moving from broad-based buys – such as people aged 18 to 49 with a propensity for “dramas” – to more granular segmentation.

    “When finding audiences for a particular film, it used to be really shortsighted, where you might have only considered other theatrical films an audience has consumed,” said Yvonne Abt, SVP of media for Open Road Films.

    Entertainment marketers must also compete for consumer attention as more networks and video services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, boost their own program marketing in linear TV.

    “Television used to be the sandbox for theatrical clients to gain awareness, but it’s become untenable to try to compete against all of those marketing dollars and attention-grabbing creative,” Abt said. “We needed to be scrappy and find other ways to get attention.”

    That said, the film studio didn’t want to completely ignore television, despite a digital-first push to reach a female-skewing audience for the October release of “All I See Is You,” the psychological drama starring Blake Lively.

    Working with its partner, Tremor Video DSP, Open Road Films studied data representing about 34 million homes with the TV data platform Alphonso.

    It found that in particular, linear and over-the-top captured the most attention from the older-skewing female audience it was after.

    Using Alphonso’s data, Open Road identified and isolated audiences based on what they watched across broadcast, cable and streaming, down to the program level.

    The audiences were selected based on multiple “entry points” to the film, such as whether a viewer is more likely to be fan of thrillers, romances or strong female protagonists.

    With this information, Open Road used Tremor Video to create 15 buckets of micro audience segments to target through mobile video. The goal was to send mobile ads that matched the context of the TV programming consumed just minutes before or after the show content aired.

    “We were really trying to deliver a personalized ad experience on the personal device married to specific TV messages,” said Abbey Thomas, CMO of Tremor Video DSP.

    Tremor Video’s in-house creative team worked with Open Road’s creative team to customize various messages to reach these female viewers, whether they were watching “Scandal” on network television or “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

    Open Road designed about 11 different pieces of creative to help amplify its second-screen ads based on different viewer attributes.

    “By combining data about different television and streaming programs, it really helped us ascertain which people would like which message and then optimize the creative around it,” Abt said.

    For instance, if Open Road knew a consumer liked the program “Scandal,” it determined they were more likely to associate with a strong, flawed heroine and opt for creative geared toward that mindset.

    By combining TV and mobile data and targeting viewers with more precision, Open Road generated moviegoer lift as high as 17%.

    Ensuring proper frequency caps throughout the campaign’s life cycle can make or break the consumer’s cross-screen experience and impact conversion, said Abt, who previously worked with entertainment advertisers at agencies Horizon, UM and OMD.

    “If we’ve seen someone has been exposed 10 to 15 times to our trailer and has shown other positive signs and signals, we may actually choose to dial down frequency so we can put more money toward people we still have to convince,” she said. “In that way, it doesn’t negatively impact consumers who have already seen the trailer, and we save a little bit of gas in the tank for those last-minute decision-makers.”

  • How Streaming Video Service Crunchyroll Strikes A Balance Between Subscriptions and Ads

    How Streaming Video Service Crunchyroll Strikes A Balance Between Subscriptions and Ads
    by Kelly Liyakasa

    For video service Crunchyroll, finding the right mix of ads and subscriptions is critical for ensuring long-term success in the OTT space.

    That strategy also includes a range of alternative revenue streams, such as offline events and ecommerce.

    But before it could effectively monetize, Crunchyroll built a scaled audience by catering exclusively to Japanese anime enthusiasts.

    As a result, the niche streaming service continued to attract funding from its investors. Ellation, Crunchyroll’s parent company, is backed by Otter Media, a joint video venture between AT&T and Chernin Group.

    “Brands like ours, and maybe the WWE, have proven that serving a key audience and knowing exactly who you’re creating content for doesn’t have to be a niche effort,” said Colin Decker, COO of Crunchyroll and former GM of Discovery Digital. “That’s what made us one of the top 10 SVOD services in the world with a larger direct-to-consumer business than most US TV brands.”

    In 2017, Crunchyroll crossed the 20 million-user milestone – and 1 million paid subscribers.

    Decker spoke with AdExchanger about how Crunchyroll achieved its growth and where it’s heading. 

    AdExchanger: How does maintaining a direct-to-consumer model pay off for an OTT brand?

    COLIN DECKER: The business I ran at Discovery Digital Networks was absolutely about expanding our own, original IP in a social sharing and distribution model. We were fully ad-supported.

    Coming to Crunchyroll, which had such a unique subscription-based relationship with its users, allowed us to anchor the brand and a business and then build a strong, profitable model off of that. There are a lot of incremental and ancillary businesses you can develop if you have a strong brand.

    Can you share an example?

    It gives us permission to do a lot of other things that we probably wouldn’t have done in a purely ad-supported business. For instance, events – we just launched the Crunchyroll Expo, our own anime conference. We have Crunchyroll movie night, which happens four times a year in 300 theatres around the US. We have the Anime Awards, which is like the Oscars for anime. We lean very hard into commerce, have an ecommerce store and do a lot more merchandising at our live events now.

    How do those ancillary events build audience engagement?

    Crunchyroll kind of uniquely organized itself around an underserved category of people out there and over time, the aggregate momentum of that group became something bigger than the community, and it became more of a lifestyle and point of view. Instead of us just finding random anime fans around the world, we’re making new fans and showing them how great this medium is and what it means to be part of it.

    You’re one of those rare video services that’s grown both your subscription and ad-supported businesses. What made you choose to do a hybrid?

    In a purely ad-supported environment, you’re fairly dependent on the platforms you’re building audience on, which you do not own. There have been very few people who’ve been able to meaningfully build an owned-and-operated ad-supported business that’s capable of true scale, because the real audience scale fundamentally lives on big social platforms, especially Facebook and Google’s YouTube.

    An important question for anyone to ask in the TV environment today when considering launching a new offering into the marketplace is, “Does your proposed offering uniquely speak to someone out there or does it attempt to reach everyone?” And that sheds a light on the fundamental issue we see, which is that a lot of content brands who try to be something to everyone, come from the legacy of traditional distribution – the MVPD world.

    How does a legacy broadcaster find similar success in OTT then?

    It’s a combination of things: a deep, committed empathy with the audience you’re trying to serve and then fact-checking yourself with actual data, whether it’s consumption data in your own platform or, in our case, lots of social data because it’s important to know what’s happening with the anime conversation outside of our own world.

    We also don’t wake up in the morning thinking of new ways to make money. We wake up thinking of new ways to absolutely super-serve and engage our fans. That’s always the formula we start with.

    How can a digital (or traditional) publisher find success in OTT when they’re often at the mercy of the platforms to increase their distribution?

    Be reasonable in your expectations, be prepared to devote the time that it takes and be prepared with the capital to support you through that transition. It takes time.

    Crunchyroll has been around for about 10 years, but the hockey stick really happened within the last two years. A huge pitfall for a lot of OTT services right now is having unrealistic expectations about how quickly they can create a direct-to-consumer relationship.

    We were big fans of (Comcast’s) Seeso and partnered with them (before they were shut down). They had 100,000 subscribers, which is nothing to sneeze at, but you’re often punished if you don’t get to 1 million in year one. So, I’d say have patience, commitment and capital.

    Also, absolutely know your audience. When Crunchyroll was a small startup, the people who worked here were the audience. And so it really just super-served itself.

    Interview condensed and edited.

  • TV Commercial Length And Attention: The Elusive Sweet Spot

    On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

    Today’s column is written by Joan FitzGerald, an independent consultant.

    In our entertainment-overloaded, attention-starved digital age, every teacher knows they need to balance the long and thoughtful with the short and punchy, or else they’ll lose the attention of the class.

    This has never been truer than in video advertising. Building ad formats and ad environments where attention can thrive is the new mandate as consumers have more control over their viewing environment. We need to rethink our metrics to focus on attention – and fast.

    Impressions, or exposure to an advertisement, is the foundational advertising metric that the media industry has relied upon for decades. It is coming under more scrutiny now than ever. The impression metric is grounded in the assumption that consumers pay attention. Unfortunately, attention, especially among younger consumers, may have been inalterably diverted from the 30-second commercial. New ad formats and contexts are the keys to getting their attention back.

    Media brands like Fox’s True[x] introduced the six-second spot. Turner has done ground-breaking research on ad context. Google pioneered giving consumers more control of their ad experience.

    Research from TVision Insights suggests shorter commercials deliver on ROI; it found that Discovery’s Shark Week promotional ad viewers who paid attention for at least three seconds had a tune-in rate 68% higher than average. And iSpot.TV calculated that 28% of attention is driven by program-related factors, and the rest by factors such as ad creative and creative wear-out, the point where the ad loses its effectiveness due to repeated airings.

    On digital platforms, marketers and digital ad platforms long ago realized that commercials lasting 30 seconds – or even 15 – are non-starters in most contexts. How long the commercial actually appeared on the device before the next commercial started or before tune-away was easily measured. Digital ad platforms saw that they had to go shorter or give consumers more options, such as skip buttons, to control the experience to retain their audience.

    On television, 15- and 30-second commercials have been the mainstays of the business. But, while it’s theoretically possible to measure how long the commercial appeared on the TV screen, the metric is not used in our transactional systems. Nielsen’s measurement standard is a minute and not granular enough to untangle this question. Television set-top box data doesn’t always have actual end times – these are often modeled.

    The problem with commercial length as a transactional metric is that the ad buyer may assume that a six-second commercial has less value than a 30-second commercial because it’s shorter. This is too simplistic an evaluation given today’s advertising dynamics. In today’s world of lower attention spans and more ad avoidance, shorter commercials may have higher value.

    There is emerging research that shows consumer attention and comprehension can be captured in seconds. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) set the digital video viewability standard, which gets us to “opportunity to see” the ad – the step before attention – at only two seconds. MRC found that recall tripled as digital video ads moved from the lowest to highest levels of viewability.

    The consumer experience may be better with shorter commercials on linear TV because commercial pods can be shorter. Consumers may find that tune-away isn’t worth it if commercials are shorter. Six seconds may be just the right lead-in to a rich interactive experience so that consumers search or click-through for more.

    The reality is that commercial length is not a good surrogate measure for attention, and probably never was. Just because the commercial invites the consumer to watch for 15, 30 or even 60 seconds does not mean that it sparked the consumer’s attention and created comprehension for the brand.

    Marketers today know that consumer attention matters, but they are not sure they need a 30-second commercial to get there. Worse, they wonder if the 30-second commercial is just an idealized version of something that is actually self-defeating; if the consumer skips the ad because it’s perceived as too long, should a brand have used that ad in the first place?

    Marketers may no longer have the luxury of building the brand story in one long creative execution. We may have to start with shorter commercials and build the story through ad formats with more creativity and ingenuity. Even in this attention-starved world, commercials – with a bit more creativity and a lot more ad technology – can continue to grab consumers’ attention and compel them to action.

    The ad world is changing. We need to make sure our definition of impression withstands the test of these digital times. Media brands must ensure that impression means attention and is relevant to the video advertising world we live in today. That means understanding what it takes to get consumers to pay attention to the brand message, and inventing new ad formats and programming context to get us there.


  • The Case For Connectivity

    Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

    Today’s column is written by Ashley Herzog, vice president of product at Visto.

    Like a good mass transit system, interconnectivity is the key differentiator for advertising technology these days.

    But for any brand embarking on a self-serve programmatic strategy – for many an agency, too – it’s not as straightforward as simply plugging services together. Challenges and delays remain in vetting potential programmatic partners, reviewing commercial terms and poring over contracts – time-consuming work that can all be for naught if the systems can’t be integrated.

    One big hurdle: vendor vetting friction. Considering the current size of the Lumascape, just assessing hundreds of providers for initial fit could take an eternity. Seemingly every day a new partner enters the ad tech ecosystem, offering new or sometimes duplicative services to brands and agencies. The most persistent or notable often push their way to the front, whether or not their technology truly warrants the recognition.

    What is more, marketers need sign-off from multiple people within their organization. A customer wants to assemble a group of diverse and complementary partners with experience and market equity, but putting together the puzzle can be like solving a Rubik’s cube.
    Another challenge is the commercial negotiation. There is a steep adoption curve to embracing programmatic platforms’ business terms. Most will require a 12-month upfront contract with minimum spend guarantees, which have now risen to upward of 20%. Some providers require a strict and steep monthly minimum, which for a brand manager can add up to a lot of early pressure. In many cases it may take two to four months to ramp up a team to the kind of understanding or visibility to drive significant results.

    Finally, there is the contract review. Legal due diligence is important – and time-consuming. I recently learned of one big publisher that took more than six months trying to get its legal team to review a programmatic ad tech contract. And I heard about one major brand that already had a data management platform and programmatic director in place, but just didn’t know where to start to build out its programmatic stack. Just getting one demand-side platform in place took it more than eight months.

    These points of inertia are not just road bumps slowing down brands’ inevitable adoption of programmatic tools – they are actually suppressants discouraging many from jumping in at all. I have seen many advertisers and agencies, put off by these challenges and complexities, actually shy away from the prospect.

    Programmatic buying is still a mystery to most marketers, according to the ANA, with only 23% claiming to understand how to effectively leverage programmatic strategies. This simply isn’t good enough – when brands are looking at investing millions of dollars in media spend, any mistakes are costly. It’s on the vendors to add in a layer of product onboarding and training to help alleviate this gap.

    When I think about how my peers in engineering can smooth out the disconnection and inefficiencies between the core executional actions of advertising platforms from a technical standpoint, I enviously wish there were an equivalent magic wand we could wave over on the business side, to reduce the friction and uncertainty around vetting, negotiating and clearing supplier contracts.

    That is why I think everyone in the industry needs to make a concerted effort to reduce the inertia and increase the simplicity with which customers can onboard themselves to a programmatic stack.

    Too often, people leading brand marketing efforts are overwhelmed at the first step on the on-ramp. That can limit spending against tactics that may be extremely valuable to a brand, but are deemed too daunting to explore. So, vendors should take it upon themselves to make the best in programmatic solutions as accessible as possible.

    Building the first programmatic stack is about contracts and fine print as much as it is about APIs and data. The industry needs to make these business matters as plug-and-play as the technology in the platforms it sells, reducing the time it takes to assess partners, negotiate terms and review contracts.


  • Google Shares Play Store Data To Stamp Out Mobile Click Injection Fraud

    Google is opening up an API to stop fraudsters from stealing credit for app installs, and mobile measurement and attribution platform Tune is an early adopter.

    The API, which was fully integrated into Tune’s platform Monday, enables Google to share data with partners about the exact time an app install is initiated in the Play store.

    Knowing that bit of info allows attribution providers to pinpoint any fishy-looking clicks that take place between the download and the first time an app is opened, which is the point at which credit for the install is doled out.

    Bad actors increasingly are trying to grab credit for app installs – organic app installs, in particular – through a practice known as click injection, primarily an Android problem, by insinuating themselves into those moments between the download and the initial open.

    Android is particularly vulnerable to click injection fraud because the OS broadcasts new app-install alerts at the system level to other previously installed apps.

    While those alerts are helpful for app integration and interoperability, bad actors can use malware to see when a new app is downloaded. The malware then generates fake server-side clicks from the device between when the install initiates and app is opened.

    What’s insidious about this form of fraud is that it tricks developers into paying for organic installs.

    “Advertisers pay for advertising, they see supposed performance, but then there’s no incremental growth of their business,” said Tune CEO Peter Hamilton.

    It’s also tough to detect because it looks like the click is coming from a legit device, and that messes up analytics. App marketers are led to believe that their paid media is more effective than it is, while fraudsters take credit for installs that would have happened anyway.

    Although it’s difficult to know exactly how much money is being lost to click injection, Tune reckons that it’s at least a $700 million-a-year problem with the potential to grow if left unchecked. The company estimates that click injection represents about one-third of mobile app install fraud overall.

    The difference between click injection and click spamming is the precision of the operation. Spammers generate as many clicks as possible hoping that one snags credit right before an open. With injection, the fraudster knows exactly when the download is happening.

    “In that instant, you only need one click to get credit,” Hamilton said.

    But by combining click-to-install reports at the attribution provider level that track the lag time between a click and an install with deterministic time-stamp data from Google Play, it’s possible for Tune clients like to suss out abnormal click behavior and block the bad ones.

    Although is eager to spend in the paid acquisition space, said Oliver Mills, the brand’s global mobile marketing manager, “the infrastructure isn’t there to scale without fear that you are shoveling your money into a big fraud fire.”

    It’s troubling to Mills that some ad networks still aren’t addressing the issue proactively, which indicates that the incentives aren’t yet aligned.

    “Clearly there is a substantial portion of their clients who are happy to keep spending blindly or else the ad networks would have been forced to adapt,” he said. “Without a large scale change of mindset from advertisers, black hat methods will always prevail as the easiest way to reach those targets.”

    And, the fact is, prevention is always better than treatment, Mills said, which is why it makes sense to combat click injection at the source.

    Collaborating with the platforms to cut down on app-install fraud will soon become ubiquitous across the mobile attribution space, Hamilton said.

    “We’re expecting that this will become an industry standard,” he said. “Everyone working together is the only way to make sure click injection isn’t a problem any of us have to deal with anymore.”

  • Rob Norman Shares His Industry Outlook After 30 Years In The Media Biz

    Agencies are dying?

    Don’t tell that to Rob Norman, chief digital officer and veteran of WPP’s GroupM, who said Monday he will step down from his full-time role to become a part-time adviser for the company.

    But even if agencies aren’t having a near-death experience, they should behave like they are, Norman said: “If you don’t assume you’re on war footing, that’s a mistake in a time of radical change. You ask yourself if your strategy is right and if your execution matches your vision and make tough decisions to do that.”

    Norman began making those tough decisions at WPP in 2001 after it acquired the digital media agency CIA, where he worked at the time. He served as chairman of media agency MEC in the UK and CEO of GroupM North America before becoming chief digital officer of GroupM in 2012. He will continue to advise GroupM clients and other companies such as the BBC.

    At GroupM, Norman’s pointed thought leadership and prescient understanding of how digital media would change the advertising landscape was integral in guiding clients – and GroupM – through disruption. He was on the team that led the acquisition of 24/7 Real Media in 2007, which would become GroupM’s trading desk, Xaxis, and the heart of its programmatic operation.

    As Norman steps back from a full-time role in agencyland, he has high hopes for media agencies despite a less-than-stellar financial year for holding companies.

    “Anyone that thinks that we are a moribund sector, the coal miners or mall owners of our time, is mistaken,” he said. “The role of the media agency to have visibility across categories, geographies, channels, vendors, tools and services, and to be both the agile integrators of technologies and the passionately neutral observers and combiners of platforms, is vital.”

    He spoke with AdExchanger.

    AdExchanger: What point is the advertising industry at in its evolution?

    ROB NORMAN: We are in a transformational period about the platforms and data sets we deal with, consumer behavior, the way we measure, the mechanisms for trading and the migration from upfront to auction-traded markets.

    The sector has been sniped at excessively from the outside. It’s been sniped at by businesses that are under pressure and think they can alleviate that pressure by passing it on to someone else. The business is in a massive transformation, but I think it will emerge different and more vibrant. I think media agencies are only going to be well placed if they choose to disrupt themselves.

    How can agencies remain an essential part of the ecosystem as they deal with continued pressure from their clients? 

    Businesses that are now super successful have had near-death experiences. You don’t have to look further than Apple to think about businesses that got to the verge of collapse.

    The people who have made it have a combination of guts and vision. I look at Kelly Clark [CEO, GroupM], and people like Amanda Richman [CEO, Wavemaker], Adam Gerhart [CEO, Mindshare], Sasha Savic [CEO, Mediacom] and Christian Juhl [CEO, Essence], and they’ve got guts and passion for sure.

    What’s the future of advertising? 

    The single word is relevance. People will respond to things they find relevant, whether that is something I need right now, something that speaks to my emotional needs or made me laugh. Relevance in an algorithmically driven world is things more likely to elicit a response which, in turn, creates value for the consumer, the platform and the advertiser.

    How do you stay relevant when media consumption continues to fragment? 

    I would argue that fragmentation is a friend of the relevant. The hardest thing is to be relevant to all people all of the time. The easier thing is to be relevant to some people some of the time.

    How will the duopoly dynamic in the industry play out?

    Nothing is forever. Google and Facebook have a social, ethical and commercial responsibility. When you create weaponry that can be powerful for causes of good, you have to explore the potential for wrongdoers using that same set of weapons. They have come later to that than they should have, which does not mean it’s too late.

    The amount of resources they are going to have to apply to reduce the negative impact of their platforms is enormous. Whether that is a big enough break on their progress, I don’t know.

    Will the issues Google and Facebook face today deter advertisers at any point? 

    The YouTube issues have deterred a number of advertisers, although it didn’t have a catastrophic effect on [Google’s] revenues. We’ve got some clients who are almost religious in their views on proximity to content and other clients for whom sales is such a driver that they are largely unconcerned. Advertisers will be extremely supportive about the effort the platforms are making to prevent misuse, and highly critical if they don’t feel those efforts are being made sufficiently.

    I’m most concerned that the economic model for original, informative, educative and entertaining content is not undermined by other forces in the market. We’re closer to the edge of that than we should be, but I don’t believe we’re going to reach the edge. Not everyone is going to make it out, but I think that the content creation industry will survive.

    Digital media is having a rough month. Can it survive on an ad-supported model? 

    The New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and HBO create a media experience someone will be prepared to pay for. That’s an ethos that will serve you well. If your idea is to monetize large volumes of undifferentiated eyeballs through intrusive advertising, your business model is not correct in the digital world.

    With privacy initiatives like GDPR in Europe, how will digital advertising continue as we know it today? 

    We don’t know. Agencies have enormous obligations under GDPR. Publishers have those responsibilities, as do advertisers. It’s going to require extreme vigilance.

    You’ll find extreme efforts to obtain the right consent for use of first-party data. Simultaneously, you’ll find people re-evaluating whether one-to-one marketing is always relevant. There may be a pullback to think about the world at a cohort level.

    This interview has been edited.

  • Zenith: Programmatic Display Will Eat The World By 2019

    Programmatic trading is coming to traditional channels such as TV, radio and OOH sooner than you might think, according to according to Zenith’s third Programmatic Marketing Forecast, released Monday.

    Zenith predicts programmatic buying techniques used widely in digital display increasingly will bleed into more traditional media channels.

    The Publicist-owned agency reckons that advertisers will spend around $5.6 billion programmatically across TV, radio, cinema and out-of-home this year, which represents around 6% of total ad spend in these areas.

    The “desire is there,” although the availability of data to make these channels addressable is holding the industry back, said Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting and director of global intelligence at Zenith.

    “You need to be able to address ads to the level of the user for radio, at the household level for TV and at the location level for out-of-home,” he said. “The process will be faster or slower depending on the media. It will be a fair few years before programmatic TV becomes mainstream, but we’ll see more and more programmatic-like deals delivered to digital out-of-home displays.”

    Meanwhile, global digital display media continues to grow at its usual brisk clip. By 2019, 67% of global digital display media will be bought and sold programmatically, up from 59% this year.

    Some markets are more programmatically mature than others, but every market “is pretty much on the same path,” Barnard said.

    English-speaking markets take the lead in terms of programmatic spend. In Canada, 81% of digital display was bought programmatically this year. In the US, programmatic digital spend clocked in at 78% and in the UK at 77%.

    The US programmatic market, the largest by far, was valued at roughly $32.6 billion in 2017 – 57% of the global total.

    China, however, is a programmatic laggard. The programmatic market in China is worth an estimated $5.3 billion, but only 29% of digital display advertising is being traded programmatically.

    Barnard attributes the lack of programmatic spend in China to the “difference in its current advertising and marketing culture.”

    While personalized and data-driven advertising is burgeoning in the US, UK and Canada, Chinese advertisers are more focused on mobile ecommerce and online video, although that will likely change as internet giants like Tencent start pushing into ad tech and targeted advertising.

    The main takeaway is that advertisers are spending more on programmatic and that trend is only accelerating. Even the General Data Protection Regulation, Europe’s wide-ranging privacy legislation coming into force in May, won’t have much of a chilling effect on the growth of programmatic spend, Barnard said.

    “GDPR might affect the type of data around which programmatic can be traded,” he said, “but I don’t see it impacting the use of programmatic technology.”

  • As branded content pivots to video, publishers face new challenges

    Branded content is undergoing its own pivot to video, putting the squeeze on traditional publishers that were already facing rising competition for those marketing dollars and battling low profit margins. Now, they find themselves battling it out with entertainment studios and production houses that are also piling into the market for original digital video.Brand and agency executives alike say they’re seeing more video creators and studios including Bravo Media, which touts such clients as HBO and Unilever; and talent agencies like CAA, which has done work for Chipotle, all of them angling to get a piece of the branded video content pie.

    Stephanie Losee, head of content for Visa’s corporate communications, sees pitches from two types of companies. One is video production houses or artists with a record of creating successful branded content that are proposing to work directly with the brand rather than through a publisher or advertising, media or content agency. The other is influencers, such as adventurers who want the brand to sponsor their trips.

    “It’s currently difficult to engage with these proposals because they require a lot of bandwidth, but I can see the phenomenon growing,” she said.

    While traditional publishers are still in the process of pivoting to video, these companies have already been doing video a long time, long enough that they’re often specialists in one kind of video or another. While publishers say they have a studio, video companies can say they are a studio.

    “Think of that first meeting,” said an exec at a tech brand. “If someone says, ‘We have eight Emmys, and here are the A-list stars we’ve worked with,’ that is a much easier pitch than, ‘We’re doing a lot of editorial video, and we’d like to do some for you as well.’”

    Even existing video studios aren’t immune. “Everyone’s your competition,” said Peter Corbett, president and owner of Click 3X, a video and digital production studio in New York that has done campaigns for Kind bars and Absolut vodka. “The demand is there, but so is the ease with which you can create the content. You can shoot 4K [resolution] on your brand-new iPhone 8.”

    Observers point to the Netflix effect as a force behind branded video. Netflix (and now Amazon) have spent a ton on original content. That not only raises audiences’ expectations for quality, but with people watching Netflix and other ad-free OTT services, it’s getting harder to get people’s attention with ads. So branded content video has to be all that much better.

    “Just like everything else in video, there’s an arms race to get the best talent and production, like with scripted content,” said Bernard Gershon, who consults on video to publishers. “And the people who are still using the model of two, three years ago will lose to those prepared to spend real money and have high-quality talent. Two years ago, you could find someone with some followers on Instagram. Now, they need to be real talent.”

    Along with Netflix, Facebook is a factor. Native ad platform Polar said an Australian publisher client recently lost a branded content pitch to Facebook, which teamed up with a production company there. Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen, said he’s seeing social video makers like Turner’s Super Deluxe emerge that know exactly how to make content for brands who want to reach young adults where they are — social media.

    “There are social studios who are doing everything from creating the content to distributing it to reporting on it, and they’re creating Gen Z content for Watch,” Lowenthal said. “They know how to completely create, using that language.”

    The video studios also often differ in their sales approach. Whereas publishers’ pitch is about how they can help the advertiser and are driven by the audience and publishers’ voice, talent agencies come to marketers with a big star and big idea, ready-made for a brand to integrate into.

    Publishers’ pitch is that they know their audience best, but that limits their pitch to advertisers that want to run on those publishers’ sites, which have their established editorial point of view.

    “BuzzFeed, Vice — all these guys have a starting point,” Lowenthal said. “The thing about Watch is, there is no starting point. More and more, if you talk to creative people, they want creative freedom.”

    Featured image via Digiday