As 2018 Gets Under Way, Digital Ad Execs Are Worried About These Five Issues

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 Adam Schenkel, vice president of programmatic at GumGum.

Correction: This column has been updated to more accurately characterize Chrome’s ad-blocking enforcement. Per Google, a single noncompliant ad format or creative will not lead to a site being deemed noncompliant. The company will follow the guidelines [PDF] set by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA). The threshold is 7.5% of page views with noncompliant ads during two months following the effective date; 5% in the ensuing four months; and 2.5% thereafter.

The end of the fourth quarter and the start of Q1 are full of planning conversations with brands, agencies and publisher partners.

While a lot has stayed the same – sadly, there is still an ongoing obsession over click-through rates – there are some interesting moves ahead for 2018.

As I took a step back and considered the recent conversations I’ve had at industry events with colleagues, clients and partners, several main themes stood out as being top of mind for digital advertising executives.

Google Chrome Update

On Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, there will be no love for advertisers on Google Chrome who try to run ads within certain formats, namely pop-ups and other ad formats deemed overly intrusive by the Coalition for Better Ads.

On the supply side, people are nervous. Publishers are already feeling a direct impact, and supply-side platforms (SSPs) and ad tech companies have been jumping through hoops to get compliant with CBA. If you provide ad units, you’ve likely spent the past several months re-evaluating various ad units and, in some cases, completely discarding them. Some players in the market are losing formats that bring in significant revenue, forcing many ad tech companies back to drawing board on their inventory. I fully expect some companies to go out of business as a result.

The group that seems most unprepared is the agencies. Since they aren’t a publisher or ad tech company that’s had to be actively making changes the past several months, they seem largely out of the loop.

I have had a lot of conversations of late with agency contacts who are unaware, to a certain extent, if what they’re buying is compliant or not and if it will cause them to lose scale overnight. I spend a lot of time on education in general – what CBA is, what they need to look for, how to understand what’s a violation. Expect to see crash-course learning over the next four to six weeks – and likely some rapid readjustments of media plans.


Based on publisher conversations I’ve been having, Ads.txt is a top priority with premium publishers. The industry is moving toward mandatory participation. Where I’m seeing the most activity is with the demand-side platforms (DSPs), which are putting a preference on traffic coming from Ads.txt sites. That means programmatic supply partners have to re-examine which traffic they’re sending – and if they’re willing to take a potential financial hit along the way for more quality over quantity.

Short-Form Video

Short-form video was oft-discussed last year, but this year we’ll see a significant increase in short-form video creation. Based on agency chats, a solid 90% seem to be looking to video becoming a larger part of digital media buys and specifically short-form video for social and TV spots for digital distribution. What I find especially interesting is hearing how brands want to experiment with cross-over content on TV and social.

Moving forward, the six-second spot will become as normal as the 15 to 20 seconds we’re used to. One emerging approach is showing the six-second spot and then an engagement activity that takes a consumer to longer-form content. This is going to put heavier onus on creative teams for compelling content. I also expect image-based advertising over six-second video to be a popular request for additional monetization.

Server-To-Server Header Bidding

Browser-side header bidding became quite the belle of the ball over the past few years, and now the discussion is shifting toward server-to-server header bidding. Many programmatic execs I’ve talked with are still split on pros and cons. They don’t like the cookie loss and associated user insights but do like the broader look at impressions through the supply chain. Publishers like the ability to plug in a larger number of bidders without the risk of latency on their page loads like they would have with a large number of bidders on client-side header bidding. Publishers also like being able to plug in all the bidders into server-to-server header bidding.

Pre-Bid Cost Hot Potato

Who pays for the pre-bid fraud solutions? That’s an active discussion going on in the industry. Fraud detection solutions are no longer a nice-to-have. It’s become insurance for brands but DSPs want SSPs to incur the cost of fraud prevention.

White Ops with its MediaGuard product is the player of choice but I’m seeing heavy clawbacks from the DSPs as they begin to offer their buyers a fraud-free atmosphere. At some point, these fees could get passed down to the publisher, and they already are by some SSPs. There is still a lot to figure out, and right now the responsibility is being tossed around with no one wanting to hold the bag.

Follow GumGum (@GumGum) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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