The Coming Ad Tsunami of 2018 (Part 2): Viewability, Filtering & E.U. Compliance
In part one of this series, I explored how new online forces are driving massive changes that will impact how B2B publishers sell and deliver online ads in 2018. From the rise of ad fraud, to Google’s “ad filtering,” and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the world of online advertising is undergoing a significant transformation. In part two, I’ll explore some of the ways publishers can prepare for these changes, and make sure the online ads they’ve sold are in compliance with new rules and advertiser expectations.
Get Ready for New Viewability Requirements
A small B2B magazine publisher who is a leader in their industrial category was recently hit with an unheard-of requirement from their largest advertiser. This household-name advertiser wanted to run a two-month, six-figure campaign. The ad agency insisted that in order to place the campaign, the publisher would need to install tracking code on their website.
The cost to install the code was about $1,500, but a B2B publisher doesn’t argue about a major campaign from its largest advertiser. The code is intended to track “viewability” among other things. After all, if a publisher serves an online ad and it is too low on the webpage for a reader to see, has the ad actually run? It’s a fair question.
To better understand how viewability is measured, I contacted three leading companies that offer 3rd-party metrics to advertisers -- Moat, DoubleVerify, and Integral Ad Science. I asked what they track when it comes to online ad viewability and how. Every one of them ducked my questions with lame excuses. One accidentally CC’d me on an internal communication which indicated that they did not want to answer my questions. As an old reporter suspicious of Big Data, this lack of transparency bothers me.
Ad viewability requirements may affect you too in 2018. Although you might not know everything about the data that a tracking code scoops from your site, how do you say no to a serious ad campaign?
Prepare for Google to Judge Your Online Ads
When the leading internet browser announces they are going to determine what ads your website can display on desktop and mobile, it is time to pay attention. Google’s Chrome is reported to have nearly 60% of the browser market, which means its new initiative to limit “annoying” online ads will have a major effect on publishers. Google announced in August that it will block all ads on websites that display intrusive ads.
Anything is better than ad blocking when it comes to our ability to deliver the online ads we sell, so if “ad filtering” can reduce the impetus for users to block ads, that is a good thing.
Still, I hate the concept of Google being in charge of internet ad delivery even more than it is already. After all, Google is directly competing with publishers, often selling more advertising in your market than you do. Odds are good you also rely on Google’s ad server, Doubleclick For Publishers (DFP). Nonetheless Google is approaching “ad filtering” as public service, relying on input from the Coalition for Better Ads which includes heavyweights ranging from Facebook and IAB to News Corp and The Washington Post. Most likely this collaborative posture is for real, since Google does not want more adoption of ad blockers either; but they do control the switches.
Regardless of your take on the politics of this, you should monitor your online ads carefully and make sure you are not out of compliance. If you run your website with taste, you probably won’t be. “Of the first 100,000 sites they reviewed, only about 700 were flagged as ‘failed’ or ‘warning’ status,” according to Trey Connell, CTO and my colleague at ePublishing. He and his team have been watching this to help more than 200 B2B publishing client websites remain in compliance with Google’s new standards. Check out the list of prohibited online ads, which include ads like prestitials and auto-playing video with sound.
According to Connell, you must wait for Chrome to review your site and to provide an ad experience report. “Do a self-review now to save yourself big surprises,” Connell adds. He suggests you check your Search Console in Google Analytics and monitor if and when your website is reviewed. Be aware that at first, you may only be reviewed for desktop or mobile, and not both.
If by chance your site is reviewed and you get either a failed or warning status, you will be notified, Connell explains. “They don’t tell you how much time you have for your next review.” After you take actions to fix the problem, he suggests letting them know via Google Search Console you did so even though that won’t influence when the follow-up occurs. “Either way they will review you again.”
Get Your European Compliance in Order
Your website is active in Europe, whether you care about European traffic or not. Therefore on May 25, 2018, the European Commission’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules will apply to your website. The E.U. set this in motion to give publishers one set of privacy rules rather than 27. Despite Brexit, the U.K. also intends to follow them. Today’s ubiquitous ‘click to accept cookies’ will no longer cut it. Publishers can expect GDPR to impact the ad campaigns they sell, particularly if they involve cookies, as well as lead generation efforts.
If any email addresses or names are submitted from an E.U. territory, you are transferring “personal data.” You do not need offices in the E.U. or to offer services for payment for this to apply. According to the 260-page GDPR you will have new responsibilities, and if those responsibilities are not met, the E.U. will enforce fines of up to 4% of your global sales revenue. With big money at risk, it is worth paying close attention. I doubt it will be difficult for anyone reading this to be in compliance. However, if you do nothing, you likely will not be.
For example, publishers will need a data protection officer (DPO). This does not require you to increase your headcount; but you will want to assign someone this title. “It is important to know what data you are collecting,” according to Carl Schonander, senior director of international public policy at Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), who spoke during a recent SIIA webinar. “You must be prepared to tell a good story.”
GDPR may affect your business sooner than you think. Just this week one large B2B publisher received proposed contract language from an established customer with a number of GDPR-related requirements. So even if you think the E.U. might not care about your policies, your advertisers might insist on compliance.
I am no international lawyer, so be sure to do your own research. As an active member and supporter of Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA), part of SIIA, I have an idea to help you avoid hiring your own expert. I suggest you consider joining SIPA where access to the information you need and insights from Mr. Schonander would be included among many other benefits.
As for all the moves the Duopoly is making to eat your lunch, for B2B publishers, first party data is still your best defense. My previous suggestion to “beat big data with deep data” holds true in the face of online advertising disruption now more than ever.
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.