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CEO Shuffle Follows Epsilon's Acquisition Of Conversant

Andy frawley epsilonOne week after completing its $2.3 billion acquisition of ad tech company Conversant on behalf of its Epsilon subsidiary, Alliance Data Systems has made some C-level org changes.

Epsilon President Andy Frawley has become Epsilon’s CEO, reporting to Bryan Kennedy, the former Epsilon CEO who has been placed in charge of a joint Conversant-Epsilon unit. His title? That's right. CEO of Epsilon/Conversant.

Conversant CEO John Giuliani will remain.

“I wouldn’t say this has always been planned,” Frawley told AdExchanger. “When we announced the acquisition of Conversant, we started talking about the best way to operate the combined companies. It became clear we needed to divide and conquer a little more.”

As such, Kennedy will focus on integrating Conversant more closely with Epsilon and driving cross sales. Integration and exposing mutual clients to joint Conversant-Epsilon solutions are the immediate priority.

As always, integration is a heady task. Conversant – formerly known as the ad network ValueClick – had been working to integrate its disparate technologies even before it was acquired by Alliance Data. Now, Alliance Data must help finish that task, then integrate the Conversant technologies and services with Epsilon’s technologies and services.
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IAB: 100% Viewability Just Isn't Possible Yet

viewability“I don’t care if only a small portion of my ad is actually seen,” said no advertiser ever. But 100% viewability is still a work in progress.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) issued a report Tuesday in which it emphatically stated that 100% viewability simply “isn’t possible,” setting 70% as a more realistic threshold, at least for now.

It seems that the IAB is looking to mitigate some of the industry pushback it’s been getting from advertisers and agencies who are less than pleased with the way viewability has been shaking out. In the words of IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg, “it’s time to set the record straight about what is technically and commercially feasible.”

The paper calls for a reality check. The Media Ratings Council lifted its advisory against trading on viewable impressions back in March – 50% in-view for one second for display, two continuous seconds for video.

However, advertisers have been clamoring for more. One such advertiser – one of the biggest in the world – is CPG giant of giants Unilever, which, along with its agency Mindshare/GroupM, has said that ad campaigns shouldn’t be counted unless they deliver 100% viewability.

“There was a tremendous amount of excitement and positive anticipation about the standard and the MRC accreditation about a year ago, but perhaps the expectations were overly optimistic,” said Forrester senior analyst Susan Bidel. “But I’m not going to say that the IAB was premature. They did it in the best manner they could at the time.”

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The Book Of Fraud: A Marketer's Guide To Bots, Fake Domains And Other Dirty Deeds In Online Advertising

The Book Of Fraud

The rise of automation has made the ad-buying and selling process more informed and efficient, but it’s also provided an outlet for fraudsters to profit.

After all, if machines conduct more transactions that used to take place between two humans over the phone, there’s less human oversight.

Additionally, ad ops teams, excited by the ability to buy lots of traffic at very cheap prices, sometimes overlook the need for due diligence. On the sell side, publishers need to increase audience to ensure incoming ad revenue. When they make decisions based on driving traffic into their digital domains, they often work with third parties, many of whom harbor fraudulent, nonhuman traffic.

While this helps advertisers meet basic KPIs around impressions and views, it also causes the quality of the ads to drop (since nonhuman traffic doesn’t actually buy product). When ad quality drops, publishers need more traffic, thereby creating a vicious cycle in which only the fraudster profits.

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Sizmek Creates CRO Position To Snap Revenues And Messaging Into Form

liz ritzcovan sizmekAd tech company Sizmek has appointed Liz Ritzcovan to whip the company’s disappointing revenues back into shape.

Ritzcovan, who most recently served as Parade Magazine’s CRO, will officially start in Sizmek’s newly created global CRO position next Tuesday. She will report directly to Sizmek President and CEO Neil Nguyen.

The addition of a CRO position comes about a year and a half after Sizmek sold its TV business to competitor Extreme Reach and 10 months after it rebranded from Digital Generation Inc. (DG). It also reflects a change in corporate structure, separating revenue and cperations departments, the latter overseen by Sizmek CTO Greg Smith.

“A new global CRO will focus 100% on revenue, making the timing ideal for Liz to join the team,” Nguyen said in an email.

Ritzcovan – who also worked at Yahoo, Time Inc. and Omnicom agency Interbrand, will attempt to jump-start Sizmek’s lackluster revenues, though she said she doesn’t have a specific benchmark.

Sizmek’s financial story in 2014 has centered around strong growth in its mobile and video offerings, though it’s underperformed in key regions like North America and APAC. Last quarter, reduced investment in rich media dragged down the company’s revenues. These issues have kept the company from returning to its ideal double-digit growth.
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Mozilla Finally Releases Its Browser Ad Product, Hints At Programmatic In 2015

mozillaMozilla, which makes the Firefox web browser, officially released on Thursday its in-browser ad product, which the company first announced in February. Early adopters include media agency Mindshare North America, online booking site Booking.com, and The Weinstein Company’s video-on-demand portal Radius-TWC.

How it works: Individuals opening Firefox for the first time will see tiles filled with ad content in their browser. For returning users, those tiles typically show images of frequently-visited sites. Users who’ve deleted their history will also see ad content.

Firefox has a reputation as a browser that guards its users’ privacy at the expense of advertiser interests. While consumer advocates might see Firefox’s ad product as a reversal of that stance, Darren Herman, Mozilla’s VP of content, is quick to point out the user benefits.

“The web is increasingly becoming more closed, and that move towards a closed ecosystem is not healthy for users,” he said. “The emergence of a closed Internet model among some of the biggest players is a huge threat to users of the Internet. And if it’s a threat to users of the Internet, it’s a threat to Mozilla.”

Mozilla is also offering Enhanced Tiles, through which brand partners can personalize ad content.

“It’s almost like cookie-less retargeting,” explained Herman. “Enhanced Tiles targets a user we know would go to your site, due to their browsing history, and offers advertisers the ability to put a piece of fresh content in front of that user from a site they’re used to seeing.”

To support ad personalization, Mozilla created an internal data system that aggregates user information while stripping out personally identifiable information. Mozilla can track impressions, clicks, and the number of ads a user hides or pins. Its advertising partners are also privy to that data.

Mindshare NA client CVS Health ran a trial the ad product, launching a campaign about how it removed tobacco from its retail outlets. Radius-TWC is testing the format for a branded campaign on the recently-released Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour.”

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Linda Woolley To Head Cross-Industry Fraud-Fighting Unit

LindaWoolleyTAGLinda Woolley wants TAG to have teeth in the fight against online ad fraud.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is part of a cross-industry coalition composed of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers (which launched its own anti-fraud initiative with White Ops in July), and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The group, first announced back in September during Advertising Week, plans to join forces in an effort to combat ad fraud, ad-supported piracy and malware.

Woolley, the former head of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), was revealed Monday as TAG’s president and CEO, and she told AdExchanger that she won’t shy away from making the group into an enforcement agency. She added that although trade associations generally try to please their members, TAG will crack down on those who aren’t compliant.

“We’ll have real enforcement teeth,” she said. “The CEOs of all three associations have said that this is an important project and that they’re okay to let the chips fall where they may.”

For the moment, that would mean naming names by publicly calling out the bad actors. TAG will likely operate as a certification and monitoring body, along the lines of what the Media Ratings Council does for measurement, with the hope that advertisers can ultimately use the TAG certification “as a way to identify who to do business with,” Woolley said.

“If I’m a big advertiser and my reputation is on the line, do I want to be working with companies that haven’t been verified and don’t have a seal of approval?” she said. “At the very least it would hopefully force the question: Why don’t you have certification, and is the reason due to ignorance or is it something malicious?”

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Findings From VivaKi AOD, IAB Support Mobile’s Rising Supremacy

CPMDigital ad revenues in the US hit an historic high in the first half of 2014, reaching $23.1 billion, according to the IAB’s Internet Advertising Revenue Report released Monday. Notably, the IAB reported that mobile jumped 76% YoY and overtook banner ads.

In another Monday release, the VivaKi AOD Benchmark Report saw CPMs increase across display, social, video and mobile channels. The AOD report notes that CPMs within mobile, which range from $0.52 to $1.94 in Q2 2014, are generally on the rise and that advertisers can expect this trend to continue.

“In general, we’ve seen CPMs go up over the last five quarters or so, across verticals,” VivaKi SVP of Analytics Shirley Xu-Weldon told AdExchanger. The reason is real-time bidding, which optimizes the value of each impression based on the number of bidders.

According to Xu-Weldon, targeting adds another dimension to rising CPMs. “If we know something concrete about a user," she said, "if they fall into a particular cookie pool for example, that becomes even more expensive because the impression is already qualified in some way to potential buyers.”

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CPXi Keeps Expanding Its Focus

seiman hirsch cpxiRoughly a year ago, CPXi began building out two consumer-facing sites: PressRoomVIP for celebrity culture, and the music-oriented portal Hip Hop My Way.

These two sites formed the foundation of CPXi’s Consumed Media publishing division, which launched in late September. What’s unusual is that CPXi, which used to be the ad network CPX Interactive, doesn’t have roots as a publisher.

But over the past two to three years, the company has transformed itself.

“CPXi’s pivot was taking the pieces of the ad network and diversifying its various holdings into a media company,” said CEO Mike Seiman. “We have all these assets. What don’t we have? We don’t have a content creation division. When we pivoted, we hired people to create content, build a brand, drive traffic to that brand, build an audience and sell it.”

Beyond CPXi’s new publisher line of business, it offers agency-type services via the upcoming innovation lab Hatched.at as well as CCDR Media for direct-response campaign execution.

It also manages programmatic media via its AppNexus-powered exchange bRealTime and last year acquired AdReady so it could supply a self-serve ad platform and dynamic creative tools.

The development of the Consumed Media publishing division, Seiman said, is a natural evolution. He pointed to traditional content networks like Fox, TNT, AMC or Bravo that built or bought tech assets to monetize their inventory.

“They built [their technologies] last, but we built ours first,” he said. In rolling out Consumed Media, CPXi hopes to strengthen its position as a creator and licenser of content.

“Once we bring [consumers] in, we’ll sell those eyeballs to other publishers,” Seiman said. “Because of programmatic, mixed with data and the ability to purchase audiences like any advertiser does, we’re able to find a way to buy the right audiences who like our content such that it’s more valuable for us to pay them to come to our site. Because we’ll know how long they’ll be engaged in our content.”

Besides cultivating its Consumed Media audiences, CPXi also sees the publishing division as a testing bed through which it can experiment with advertising ideas before bringing them to clients.

If anything, CPXi has rolled in the opposite direction of many of its former ad network competitors, which worked to consolidate and streamline their offerings. CPXi is building out separate, though complementary, divisions.

According to company President Jeffrey Hirsch, this is all by design.

“Tying this back into the concept of transitioning, a lot of companies try to do it as a whole company,” he said. “We decided to break it into several smaller companies.”

Seiman and Hirsch spoke with AdExchanger.

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Fraud-day With Moat: Finding Fraud Without Calling It Fraud

fraud

This is the 11th in a series of interviews with vendors combating the problem of ad fraud. Other companies participating in this series include  Sizmek. Read previous interviews with comScore, DoubleVerify, DstilleryForensiq, Integral Ad Science, PubChecker, Telemetry,VideologyWhite Ops and RTB Asia.

The meta-problem with ad fraud, according to Moat CEO Jonah Goodhart, is that it’s a tremendous industry concern, yet it doesn’t have a definition. Bots surely constitute ad fraud, but what about a 1x1 display banner, or ads stacked up in a single iFrame?

Goodhart acknowledges the latter examples are problems, but do they technically represent fraud or just bad media?

“Fraud” is such a blunt instrument of a term that advertisers can be careless wielding it. Its broadness creates a lack of transparency, which from Moat’s point of view means it can be difficult for vendors, publishers and advertisers to reconcile the issue among themselves. Goodhart rejects the notion that fraud is whatever the advertiser believes it is.

Moat’s solution is to specify exactly what it’s seeing, a discipline that overlaps with its core analytics expertise.

“The solution is to automate clear, defined metrics that roll up to fraud as a theme, without actually saying it’s fraud,” Goodhart said.

An advertiser should be able to know what percentage of traffic came from hijacked devices, for instance, and if she doesn’t want to pay for that, she shouldn’t be obligated to do so.

“We really tripled our efforts in the fraud detection arena,” said Goodhart.

Fraud detection had traditionally been part of the company’s internal tool set, but the company is making plans to expose it to clients as part of its analytics platform.

“We’ve seen huge demand from marketers, who want transparency into what’s happening on the viewability side as well as the fraud side,” Goodhart said, adding that this has come up in every client conversation Moat has had.

Goodhart and Dan Fichter, Moat’s VP of engineering, spoke with AdExchanger.
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Attention! There’s A New Kid On The Measurement Block

areclickslickedThe clock’s ticking for the click, and its replacement is rounding the corner: attention.

Real-time analytics startup Chartbeat has some illustrious publisher partners on board for its attention-based metrics – which snagged Media Ratings Council (MRC) accreditation last week – including the Financial Times (FT), Wall Street Journal and Time.com.

While publishers have traditionally used click-through rates (CTR) to monetize content, the move to attention metrics has what FT commercial director of global digital advertising and insight Jon Slade calls “a profound effect on how we price access to our audience.”

He stopped short of sounding the death knell for old-school metrics like cost per mille and CTR. “We’re not saying they’re entirely useless measures for brand work like display or native, but we are saying that now there’s something more appropriate.”

FT uses attention metrics to price its display advertising based on the amount of time a user spends with its content or platforms.

“Instead of ascribing value simply to a mechanical data point – page impressions – we’re putting value to actual user behavior,” Slade said. “We’re not pricing for thousands of server pings, we’re pricing for time spent [and] advertisers really love this. Attention is a meaningful metric for brand advertising and a far closer proxy to the ambitions of a brand campaign.”

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