How AppNexus can help you keep your New Year’s resolutions


It’s a tradition maybe as old as celebrating New Year’s itself: On Jan. 1 of each year, billions of people take the plunge and resolve that this will be the year they change such and such about their lives: no ands, ifs, buts or backsies. But transforming yourself in 365 days depends, in part, on how well you know yourself as a person – and on how much data you’ve collected about the ways in which you spend your habitual time and energy. That’s tricky enough, but it gets even trickier: It also depends on how well you’re able to forecast what life events are coming your way over the next twelve months.

At AppNexus, we’re all about the people – and the businesses – who firmly resolve to reinvent themselves: once and for all and for the better. In fact, it’s actually a big part of our job: We provide businesses with enough data that they’re able to forecast and predict whatever news ahead for them – both good and bad – so they can find ways to achieve their business resolutions for the better.

On that note, we’ve got two major predictions for the coming year (and feel free to call them “analytical forecasts”, if you’re into ad-tech jargon) – as well as a sea of additional (and likely) trends. Here’s what we’re thinking for 2017:

Data will rule

With technologies like ours; ones able to stream over 100 singular data points in near-real time to clients, we’re in a position to say it and really mean it: By gathering real-time data (especially first-party, proprietary data) on your audiences, you’re setting yourself up for the big win over the next four business quarters. Device ID, geo-location, time of day or night and factors like recency will help determine the accuracy of ad-serving more than ever before. For those who want to live in a world where mobile isn’t king and contextual marketing isn’t in their lexicon – don’t tell us we didn’t warn you! J

Content will still matter – except even more so

Our digital advertising ecosystem knows how to build calls to action better than anyone in world history (while that’s just a guess, it’s definitely an educated one). What advertisers and publishers haven’t quite mastered yet – not at least to the degree that we predict they will – is how to create content that’s contextual, engaging and up to speed with an individual consumer’s moment-by-moment wants and needs. In other words, we need to think beyond mere “creative, omni-channel messaging,” here. We need advertisers and publishers who are able to craft real and meaningful stories that can move a person in ways that mere advertising can’t.

Other fast-moving developments 

There’s a lot to add in terms of predictions, here: enough to fill a whitepaper or 10. But for brevity’s sake, let’s just say that buyers and sellers will need to pay close attention to forthcoming needs such as these: Providing individuals with better user experiences (i.e. creating ads that don’t make audiences reach for their ad-blocking tools); or being able to synchronize first-, second-, and third-party data over different channels to create a seamless brand experience for today’s half-desktop, half-mobile, always-connected consumer; or the expansion of programmatic so it includes rapidly growing markets such as audio or native. Finally, given all the mergers and acquisitions happening already this year, companies should be prepared for a consolidation of our ad-tech industry like never before.

That’s all the forecasting that’s fit to print, right this minute.
Check out all of the predictions below.

 

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Methbot… Denied

On December 20, the cybersecurity firm White Ops published a research report about “Methbot,” a Russian botnet that hosts content farms and generates nonhuman traffic to siphon off money from digital advertisers. Though similar in approach to other bad actors in the advertising ecosystem, Methbot attracted outsized attention given aggressive publicity by White Ops.

Based on a careful analysis, we can state with a high degree of certainty that AppNexus had very little exposure to Methbot. Over the past week, only $500 in spend on the AppNexus exchange flowed to the IPs that White Ops identified in its report, and in light of White Ops’ data, we have further tightened our inventory quality (IQ) detection parameters.

Looking more closely into the individual domains that were being spoofed by this particular scheme, we found the following notable domains (data are for the previous seven days, and showing Methbot impressions only):

Spoofed Domain (victim) Impressions Sent Impressions Transacted Total Media Cost ($) eCPM
Domain 1 1849693 818932 491.48 0.600147509
Domain 2 63348 23673 1.91 0.080682634
Domain 3 134729 64489 1.31 0.020313542
Domain 4 73298 8043 0.67 0.08330225

 

To be clear, none of the publishers was sending fraudulent traffic.

Beyond that, we are not able to corroborate many aspects of the White Ops report. While examining the ownership information of the IPs reported in their whitepaper, we found that many were not listed as Residential ISPs in the US (though there were a few). The majority were not using obviously forged WHOIS data (they were listed as datacenters or colocation facilities, not end user ISPs).

In addition, we were not able to confirm the CPMs reported in the White Ops report, suggesting the possibility of substantial overestimation of the scale of Methbot. Our data showed an average CPM of approximately $0.50, very far from the $13 average reported in the White Ops report. Of course, we do not have access to other companies’ data. Finally, we can report that while White Ops disclosed 852,992 IP addresses as part of the botnet, we saw traffic from 797,912 of them, though virtually all of these observed impressions were not transacted, largely due to detection from our existing IQ systems. In total, over the week, we saw 153 million impressions from the IPs reported by White Ops. For comparison, AppNexus sees 1.2 trillion impressions per week typically.

AppNexus’ position as the second-largest marketplace for digital advertising places us at the center of a global ecosystem. More to the point, our scale is a key asset in fighting bad behavior. We generate full sets of impression data on which to conduct analyses, whether an auction was won or not. Our data science team aggressively and consistently analyzes traffic patterns to identify invalid traffic and shut down offending IPs.

While “Methbot” proved a non-event for AppNexus, we will remain vigilant in preserving the safety and integrity of our marketplace. That means continued investments in data science and machine learning, marketplace practices that minimize opportunities or bad behavior, and a commitment to inventory quality and optimal supply paths.

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AppNexus’ 2016 Greatest Blog Hits

office-581131_1280Looking at the list of our most viewed blog posts of 2016, the variety of topics that hooked our readers reflects the wide range of technological, cultural, and strategic developments we and the ecosystem at large have made. We engaged with you on everything from the much-hyped header bidding technique to women in tech to ad blocking to innovations in video.

As you wind down 2016 and set your sights on making greatness happen in 2017, catch up on some of our most popular blogs of 2016.

  1. Real-Time Real Talk: Outstream Video 101: When Google brought YouTube behind its walled garden and Facebook sunset LiveRail, the programmatic pre-roll space faced supply constraint. That’s the reason we rolled out an innovative outstream video solution that lets you serve video ads directly onto a browser page in near-real time.
  2. The Four Things You Need to Know About Header Bidding: 2016 was the year that header bidding became the “Next Big Thing” in the ecosystem, a solution that every publisher wanted to learn more about. In this blog, we tackle the ways that publishers can jumpstart their own header-bidding integrations with their websites – and start making more money!
  3. Why AppNexus does not support the Acceptable Ads Platform: Eyeo GmbH, in partnership with ComboTag, announced the launch of the Acceptable Ads Platform, an exchange that will enable publishers and advertisers to work around its own ad blocking software, Adblock Plus. We took a stand against the exchange because it breaks down the moral economy that connects advertisers, publishers, and consumers in a commonality of interests.
  4. From a Girl Who Codes to an AppNexian: At AppNexus, we have this wild and crazy idea that anyone should be able to work in tech, no matter what taboos or social barriers they face. That’s the reason we sponsor Girls Who Code, a nationwide program that encourages girls to develop fluency at coding and other STEM-related skills. This piece chronicles a young woman’s journey from being a member of the AppNexus-based chapter of Girls Who Code to becoming a full-time AppNexus employee.
  5. 3 Things We Learned about Header Bidding at the AppNexus Yield Executive Summit: In one of the panel discussions during this year’s AppNexus Yield Executive Summit in New York, AppNexus’ own Ryan Christensen and Gabriel Weintraub had some resonating insights into ways in which header bidding still needs to improve. For those who want to dive deeper into header bidding, this is the piece to check out.
  6. AppNexus Continues to Improve Viewability Measurement with Desktop, Mobile, Video and Flashless Technology: The coming years will see the end of Flash as a major advertising format. One of the advantages Flash gave developers was its ability for them to take into account “viewability”, or whether or not their ad had been shown to a real person. In a world post-Flash, AppNexus has been working round the clock to ensure that MRC-accredited viewability remains a given for buyers and sellers, alike.
  7. Real-Time Advertising Just Got More Instantaneous: Pretty much every ad-tech company on Earth makes a big buzz about its ability to serve ads in real time, but that doesn’t always include the latest and greatest audience data. Now with the development of AppNexus Instant Audience, advertisers can now spontaneously add users into new audience segments based on their real-time online actions, providing advertisers with the real ability to engage with users in “real time.”


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Fostering the Culture of Openness at AppNexus

Companies talk a lot about their unique culture, and sometimes from the outside it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what that means. It is true that the elements that encompass what it means to be an AppNexian are numerous, but there is one key concept that has been clear to me from the outset: the value of openness. Not only does openness underpin AppNexus’ stance in the industry, but also for the global AppNexus community, as this value is paramount and internal initiatives are centred around maintaining this culture of openness.

In my time at AppNexus, I’ve played an active role in supporting many initiatives to ensure we keep an openness in our office culture across our European community. Over the course of two years, AppNexus has grown from a 600-person strong workforce to over 1000 AppNexians across 5 continents. As we’ve expanded and changed, the following three initiatives continue to help foster a culture of openness at the heart of how we work.

Informal catch up sessions to increase openness across the European Community
As a European AppNexian, it is important for me and for all AppNexians scattered across Europe, that we feel close to one another and are open to sharing thoughts, challenges, and experiences. The “Europe Catch Up” sessions, started by the People team, are just one way that the offices of AppNexus can gather together. The sessions enable different teams across our European offices to share what they are working on, offer observations on the markets they are working on, and also ask for insights in an informal setting. It is great to hear from colleagues you wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis. Being involved in these sessions helps the openness to flourish across our European community, uniting the overall AppNexus values with the nuances of culture that each office brings. They have made it easier to reach out to colleagues in other offices who are tackling similar problems.

Facilitating open conversations through Affinity Groups
When reflecting on the culture of openness, one particular standout moment for me in helping to foster this was an optional lunch held for the London Office, run by the AppNexus Women’s Network, of which I am a Committee Lead for Europe. Our aim was to host a lively discussion on the theme of unconscious bias, particularly focusing on the likeability versus competence trade-off, highlighted in the Heidi-Howard study, which showed that success and likeability are positively correlated for men but negatively correlated for women. It was easy to find volunteers of both genders to help prepare the content and I was extremely proud that the whole office attended and engaged with the presentation, participating in a healthy discussion where different thoughts and experiences were voiced on the topic. Following this session, participation from both genders at other AppNexus Women’s Network events has increased and we have received positive comments from colleagues on how they are more aware of unconscious bias.

Extending our open culture with the broader industry
The AppNexus Women’s Network committee realised that ensuring that openness flourishes within AppNexus also enables us to be outward looking and share this value with the wider tech community. In Europe, we have started the AppNexus Women’s Speaker Series, which aims to foster a community of female leaders driving innovation and transformation in the ever-changing digital landscape. Each event in the series is a different format – to date we have hosted a fireside chat, a presentation with Q&A, and a panel. We have also partnered with other companies, sharing a platform to discuss important topics about women in technology. This has not only strengthened our business relationships with other companies, but also helped to provide a united front while tackling issues faced by women in technology.

The AppNexus company culture is aligned with what we want to achieve as part of the AppNexus Women’s Network, and we all recognise the importance of maintaining the general culture of openness. Affinity Groups at AppNexus make it easy to spearhead internal initiatives and then extend these to championing worthwhile causes. The culture of openness fostered by AppNexus continues to promote remains one of my favorite aspects of life here: a community of genuine and motivated people who constantly inspire.

 

About the author: Anne Coghlan is an Implementation Consultant. Based in London, she is part of the AppNexus Women’s Network, one of the first of many Affinity Groups active at AppNexus.

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How Brands Differentiate through Quality and Creativity in the Programmable Age

In an increasingly ad-hostile environment, marketers must harness technology not just for innovation but to deliver ads that augment rather than intrude on consumers’ experiences. Careful application of audience data is a crucial component to achieving this successfully, but so too, we are learning, is quality creative. Marketers need not only to use and learn from their audience data in order to deliver “good” targeted ads, but also bring emotional intelligence to their strategy.

This November, at Mindshare’s Huddle for Good 2016 event, AppNexus brought together three thought leaders in the programmatic space – Ruth Zöhrer, Head of Programmatic Marketing at Mindshare UK; Lara Izlan, Director of Programmatic Trading & Innovation at Auto Trader UK and Sarah Wood, Co-Founder & CEO of Unruly – to address the questions: What constitutes “good” advertising in an increasingly programmatic marketplace, and how should marketers measure success?

The answers are not straightforward, as metrics vary greatly by the individual consumer and where they are on their path to purchase.

As the internet and digital advertising mature to become increasingly data-driven and programmable, there comes an ever-evolving relationship between technology, data and human interaction. Programmatic is everywhere, particularly in markets like the UK, but if everyone is using it, it is difficult to find competitive advantage. All three panellists hit on the importance of quality: If marketers want to make the most of their assets to create exciting experiences for consumers, then quality is key. If marketers stop buying inventory for the sake of mere volume, and think about the whole picture, then they can begin to drive opportunity.

When brands consider holistic consumer relationships, there will be instances in which it would actually be more lucrative and brand-building to serve customized creative content than ads aimed at monetizing users in real-time. It is in these fleeting moments that brands can apply both data and emotional intelligence to inform their decisions. And while programmatic may have dramatically reduced human effort and error in advertising, it is important to consider the role humans play in assessing, analysing and applying data in order to – most crucially – think creatively.

Says Izlan, “It is sophisticated thinking that will make the difference and sophisticated application of technology. We need to think more broadly [than the data points.] To put the right creative and message in front of consumers, we need to know what they are actually looking for at that point in their path to purchase.”

With billions upon billions of data points at our finger tips, the panel argued that advertisers can actually over-target consumers. This influx of data – “data-besity,” as they called it – can negatively impact an ad strategy, causing distractions in the creative process, so that the campaign ultimately fails to resonate with the consumers it so closely targets.

Says Zöhrer, “We are putting intelligence at the heart of everything we do as an agency; everything should be powered by our access to data. But we are overwhelmed by it, and I’m focusing on ‘Less is more.’ We have gone through this volume approach, but what really matters in reality is how you connect the data points.”

As P&G’s Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard recently said, P&G took their targeting strategy too far. “We targeted too much, and we went too narrow,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in August of 2016, “and now we’re looking at: What is the best way to get the most reach, but also the right precision.” Pritchard’s analysis is a prime example of both the potential and limitations of programmatic advertising. Incorrectly using and applying data can lead to a strategy that is both too limited and lacking in sophisticated creative thinking – leaving brands with an ineffective ad campaign and consumers with the feeling of being trespassed upon.

As Wood puts it succinctly, “If you have crap creative, it’s all for nothing. You can target the right people incredibly effectively, but it’s going to have zero impact.”

The panel agrees programmatic is here to stay; nevertheless, marketers must learn to strike a balance between programmatic strategy and creative thinking. Zöhrer suggests that marketers need to embed the idea of programmatic into every part of their business plan and not have it be a strategy that sits in a silo. Every team must be trained to interpret programmatic in a way that makes sense for the business. And while programmatic must be a part of every conversation, data points must be elevated to spark creative ideas.

In reality, this will be quite complicated to achieve, and the industry has its work cut out to develop the right combination of technology, data and human interaction that allows marketers to differentiate themselves in ways that are meaningful.

 

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