Marketers: How to fight bot-generated traffic

Marketers: How to fight bot-generated traffic

This first appeared in BizReport

As ad fraud continues to rise, publishers are pushing back, fighting against fraudsters and bots, Here's how one company is fighting back.

Kristina: Ad fraud is such a broad topic - what is ad fraud to you and how does it impact your customers?

Spencer Scott, Head of Media Platforms, PCH/Media: Ad fraud occurs when an advertiser is misled into paying for something that is essentially worthless to them. This can come in the form of fake traffic, clicks or leads and can even include poor ad placement, where the ad has no chance of being seen. Fraud is a huge issue plaguing the digital advertising industry. According to Forrester, ad fraud led to an estimated loss of $7.4 billion in fraudulent display ad activity in 2016 alone. Forrester estimates that this number will grow to $10.9 billion by 2021 if immediate steps are not taken to address this problem. Ad fraud impacts advertisers on multiple fronts. Not only is there the obvious in terms of money lost, but fraud accounts for a substantial number of lost hours in developing and implementing marketing campaigns. Ad fraud can include bot traffic, click farms, fake impressions and clicks, as well as video fraud. Every fraudulent click or impression represents ad dollars wasted, and those dollars add up quickly. Our customers expect to get the most out of their advertising budgets and rely upon their ads being seen by legitimate sales prospects that have a positive effect on the company's bottom line.

Kristina: What steps can publishers take to ensure they're fighting bot-generated traffic?

Spencer: Monitoring is the key to fighting bot-generated traffic. Publishers must take a multistep approach to monitoring for fraudulent traffic and malware. This takes a significant investment - in both technology and the manpower - but is necessary to monitor traffic around the clock. To be effective, traffic should be scanned by both internal and third-party MRC certified tools. It's critical that they reside on all pages, tracking IP addresses and the quality of the traffic, so publishers can then validate site traffic and ensure ads are being seen by real people. Although a significant investment, it is necessary for publishers to deliver a quality product to their customers.

Kristina: How can brands ensure the publishers they're working with are high-quality?

Spencer: Brands should look to work with publishers that act as a partner in their advertising efforts. One way brands can identify high-quality publishers is based on the quality of data and transparency offered into their ad campaigns. High-quality publishers should offer real data and viewability into how ads are preforming and what audiences the ads are being placed in front of. If a publisher doesn't provide these types of insights, there may be an issue. Total transparency is key to running a successful advertising campaign. Additionally, brands should look for publishers that are able to prove they are taking tangible steps to fight ad fraud though industry accreditations and certifications like TAG, IAB and MRC.

Kristina: How does data and targeting play a role in this?

Spencer: Data and targeting play a big role in combating ad fraud. When advertisers use data to better target and position their ads in front of the right audiences, their exposure to ad fraud reduces dramatically, all the while increasing the effectiveness of ads. Accurate data also allows for advertisers to optimize their ads based on data collected from a campaign. For example, if an ad is targeting 18-35-year-old women, but the data shows the ad is preforming well among 40-year-old women, advertisers can then optimize the campaign to better position ads in front of the correct audience.

Rebuilding confidence in digital advertising: Our survival depends on it

Rebuilding confidence in digital advertising: Our survival depends on it

This was first published in MarketingTech News

Advertising decisions are not made in a vacuum.

Every dollar and metric is carefully scrutinized by CMO’s to ensure that the company is receiving maximum return on its investment. If campaigns are ineffective, they will be quickly pulled and resources redirected to more lucrative channels. Digital advertisers are beginning to understand this reality.

Not because digital advertising isn’t as, or more effective than traditional means, but because of a phenomenon specific to the digital world: ad fraud.

Ad fraud has become somewhat of an epidemic in the digital advertising industry.  Forrester Research estimates that it led to an estimated $7.4 billion in losses in 2016 alone.

Forrester also estimates that this number will swell to nearly $11 billion by 2021 if immediate steps are not taken to root out fraudulent activity and create a secure online environment for advertisers.

Why is this our problem?
While on the surface this may seem more a problem for advertisers than publishers, this is a dangerous and short-sighted point of view. The viability of the digital advertising market depends on advertisers having confidence in our ability to effectively reach their target buyer.

If the data shows that our market is rife with fraud and large percentages of budget is being wasted, advertisers will not hesitate to pull away from digital and invest in other marketing channels.

Ad fraud is multi-dimensional and can impact advertisers on many fronts that affect their bottom line. Every fraudulent click or impression represents ad dollars wasted, and those dollars add up quickly. Our customers, which are the advertisers, expect and are demanding a platform they can trust. If we as an industry can’t reverse this trend and address these problems to advertiser’s satisfaction, a drop in revenue is almost certain to follow.  

What can be done?
To effectively fight back against ad fraud, publishers must make a significant investment in terms of both technology and manpower to monitor for and prevent fraudulent traffic and malware. In the 24/7 world of digital advertising, this is what is required to deliver a product that advertisers can trust.

For starters, standard operating procedure should be that all traffic is scanned by both internal and third-party MRC certified tools. It’s critical that they reside on all pages, tracking IP addresses and the quality of the traffic, so publishers can then validate site traffic and ensure ads are being seen by real people. This continuous monitoring ensures that any suspicious or malicious activity is quickly identified and mitigated, saving the advertiser from paying for fraudulent views.

How should advertisers protect themselves?
As the digital advertising market continues to evolve, brands need to take proactive measures to help ensure that their advertising dollars are delivering a solid return. As a starting point, they should only work with publishers that are transparent with in terms of their data.

Quality publishers offer real data and viewability into how ads are preforming and what audiences the ads are being placed in front of. If a publisher isn’t receiving this level of insight into their campaigns, there is an issue. Total transparency is key to running a successful campaign and should be demanded by all advertisers.

Additionally, brands should be putting the onus on their publishing partners to solve the ad fraud problem as part of earning their marketing dollars. At a minimum, publishers should be able to prove that they are taking tangible steps to fight ad fraud though industry accreditations and certifications such as TAG and MRC.

Quality publishers offer real data and viewability into how ads are preforming and what audiences the ads are being placed in front of. If a publisher isn’t receiving this level of insight into their campaigns, there is an issue. Total transparency is key to running a successful campaign and should be demanded by all advertisers.

Additionally, brands should be putting the onus on their publishing partners to solve the ad fraud problem as part of earning their marketing dollars. At a minimum, publishers should be able to prove that they are taking tangible steps to fight ad fraud though industry accreditations and certifications such as TAG and MRC.

Where do we go from here?
We are already seeing the pendulum swing in the direction of publishers needing to prove the quality of their offerings to advertisers before receiving an actual dollar commitment. Ad fraud has risen to a level where many leading brands are demanding greater transparency and effort from their publishing partners. For example, Procter & Gamble has recently stated that it will not work with any digital media partner that doesn’t take the necessary steps to become TAG certified.

As an industry, it is in all our best interests to fight against fraud and present a quality product to our advertising partners. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has implemented a mandatory requirement that all members register with TAG as a way of demonstrating the industries commitment to eliminating ad fraud.

We as publishers understand better than anyone that providing a quality product to our customers is not only our responsibility, but that our very survival as an industry depends on it.

Weekly Roundup: 11.17.17

A look back on the latest news in adtech:

Show me the ads.txt: PCH/Media Steps Up Its Battle Against Ad Fraud

Show me the ads.txt: PCH/Media Steps Up Its Battle Against Ad Fraud

Digital ad fraud is currently plaguing the online advertising industry to the sum of approximately $7 billion annually. In addition to marketing dollars lost on bots driving fake traffic and impressions, domain spoofing has also become a major concern for advertisers. In fact, Business Insider recently flagged 10-30 million phony impressions, largely due to this phenomenon. Domain spoofing occurs when a seller fraudulently labels inventory from seemingly reputable sources like CNN or The New York Times and then resells the inventory to unsuspecting media buyers. The result: Ad spend is wasted on something that’s never seen and publishers lose out on a legitimate sale.  The good news is the industry is fed up, and many are taking steps to prevent inventory fraud, including PCH/Media.

Today, PCH/Media, in an effort to do our part in the fight against fraud, rolled out ads.txt on all of our sites.  This means that we have embedded a file in our server that states exactly which companies PCH/Media sells its inventory to. Buyers can now download all the ads.txt files and use it to target their campaigns, ensuring buyers are only dealing with a trusted source.  

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab developed the ads.txt project with the goal to increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Ads.txt creates a public record of Authorized Digital Sellers (ads), giving publishers control over their inventory available in the market and making it more difficult for the bad actors to profit from selling fake inventory. Ads.txt also enables buyers to easily identify the Authorized Digital sellers of a participating publisher, so brands can have confidence they are buying authentic inventory.

Just as CARFAX reports reinvented the used-car industry by eliminating shady sellers, ads.txt has the potential to reinvent the way advertisers buy, providing detailed insights into a publisher’s inventory. Ads.txt is quickly becoming more popular among publishers. Since its launch just this past summer, almost half of the top 10,000 publishers have an ads.txt. file, according to Ad Ops Insider.

As ad fraud has become so prevalent in the industry, brands and publishers alike are feeling pressure from industry leaders and organizations, including IAB, the Media Rating Council, and the Trustworthy Accountability Group to take further steps to combat ad fraud. Brands and publishers must work together to increase transparency and viewability in order to form trusting partnerships and ensure the integrity of the digital ad ecosystem. With today’s announcement, PCH/Media has reaffirmed its commitment to greater transparency in digital advertising.

Weekly Roundup: 11.3.17

A look back on the latest news in adtech:

  • The Rise of Native Programmatic Advertising: Native advertising is growing at a rapid rate against programmatic by 36%, while it's still behind non-social native advertising, it's not that far behind. Why's this a win for advertisers? It connects consumers with relevant advertising and allows for marketers and advertisers to strategically place advertisements that are relevant to the consumer.
  • Ads.txt Adoption Spikes: After three months of IAB's Ads.txt initiative, only 13% of the 10,000 top domains with digital advertising had adopted file. In the past month [mid-September to end of October], that number has jumped to 44%, coinciding with Google's announcements that several of their most popular products will begin filtering for ads.txt.
  • Industry Standards to Fight Fraud Might Be a Double-Edged Sword: Simply complying with new [IAB txt.ads, TAG's various programs] initiatives, isn't enough - it's time to be proactive and not reactive. 
  • And because everyone is watching it..Netflix's 'Stranger Things 2' Delivers 15.8M Viewers in 3 Days: Over the first three days, the average U.S. viewer binge watched an average of 2.9 episodes in one sitting. Were you one of them?

We are one of Maine's Best Places to Work!

We are one of Maine's Best Places to Work!

We are proud to announce PCH/Media was voted one of the Best Places to Work in Maine this year, making this three years in a row! 

For the last 10 years, The Society for Human Resource Management’s Maine State Council has recognized Maine’s top employers with the Best Places to Work in Maine initiative. Dedicated to highlighting companies that have established and consistently provided outstanding workplace environments, the Best Places to Work in Maine program addresses all of the hard work employees put in to get their company to where it is today. We are truly honored to make this list - it's a tremendous accomplishment! 

PCH/Media was ranked #12 best medium sized business to work for in Maine.

How does a company make the list? Employee satisfaction is the answer in a nutshell. Real and honest feedback is taken from actual employees, and the winners are chosen by the council, based in large part on those responses. The assessment process also evaluated each company’s employee policies and procedures.

Competition is fierce: out of all of the companies that apply, only about half end up getting ranked. Categorized based on number of employees, businesses are awarded within their size category to ensure a level playing field. With 41 other companies in the medium sized category, it's that much more of a triumph to make the top 12! 

Real Feedback

Below are just a few of the comments from our employees' surveys:

  • "Great environment to learn and to share knowledge. Full of go getters"
  • "PCH/Media creates an environment that feels like a fun startup with the financial backing of a Fortune 500"
  • "PCH/Media has a great work life balance. They understand the need to spend time with family. They let us work from home if we have a sick child, etc. Benefits package is fantastic and they provide paid holidays, holidays of choice, sick days, and vacation days. Everyone here is happy and you can tell they love their work by their positive and energetic attitudes!" 
  • "Dynamic, fast-paced projects that are both team and individual based. There's a constant level of support and help is always given to those who ask for it"
  • "PCH/Media is an organization that cares about their employees. I regularly feel that my voice is heard and people hold me accountable because they have shared confidence in my ability to deliver"

We love where we work. Would you like it, too?

We're hiring! PCH/Media is always on the lookout for smart, motivated, and fun people to join our team. Check out our current openings here.

TAG, you’re it: Are you doing your part in the fight against fraud?

TAG, you’re it: Are you doing your part in the fight against fraud?

As the world of ad fraud gets increasingly complex, brands are finally taking a stand.

Major spenders, like Procter & Gamble, have said they will no longer work with digital media partners that aren’t taking adequate steps against fraud. While this may seem bold, especially with thousands of digital partners on the market, it’s a smart and necessary step for an industry that’s lost billions of dollars to fraudulent practices.

One of the key players in this fight is the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) -  a cross industry accountability program aiming to create transparency in the digital ad industry. From fighting fraudulent traffic and combatting malware to fighting internet piracy and promoting transparency, TAG works to create a better digital supply chain.

Earlier this year, P&G’s chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, took a stand and said that they only wanted to work with TAG certified publishers, sharing, “We will work with and buy media only from the entities that comply. That’s because we don’t want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain.”

Why are brands finally starting to take a stand? There’s been a lot of controversy this year in the digital advertising world. From Facebook misreporting clicks, to YouTube’s brand safety mishap, major brands are under immense pressure from management and shareholders to ensure their brand is protected and their ad dollars are invested effectively.

P&G isn’t the only one taking notice. Earlier this year, The Interactive Advertising Bureau announced that all its members were to take steps to get TAG certified, including major brands like Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Unilever, American Express, The Walt Disney Company and more.

These brands have agreed to start requiring the publishers they advertise with to attain TAG’s certification seals against fraud, all to ensure brand safety, transparency into performance metrics, accurate targeting and overall efficient ad spending. With so much at stake, brand’s want to work with publishers who will ensure their ads have the best placements and that they are actually reaching the right users, and not bots.

The fight against fraud can’t be won alone. Brands need to take a firm stance against working with publisher’s who aren’t prioritizing an anti-fraud strategy. Further, publishers need to do their due diligence in offering brands the best ad solutions out there, whether that be placements or targeting, and ensure each of their partner’s ad dollars are being spent how they should be, reaching human shoppers.

If brands and publishers unite in the fight against fraud, they can increase transparency, performance and overall quality across the digital ad supply chain, ensuring both parties get the most bang for their marketing buck. To that end, PCH is thrilled to be a TAG certified partner, dedicated to the fight against ad fraud. We want to deliver the best ads to our brand partners and ensure they are reaching their target audiences, but we can’t do it alone. Brands need to question publishers (and the agencies recommending them) that aren’t taking strides against fraud. Together, we can stop fraud in its tracks and create a better digital ad supply chain for everyone.

Want to learn about how PCH/Media can help you reach your target audience at scale? Contact us today.

PCH Earns TAG’s Industry-Wide Certified Against Fraud Seal

PCH Earns TAG’s Industry-Wide Certified Against Fraud Seal

Leading Media Company Joins 22 Others in Achieving TAG’s Rigorous Anti-Fraud Standards

Publishers Clearing House (PCH), a leading direct marketing media company, announced today that the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an industry initiative to fight criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain, has awarded PCH its Certified Against Fraud Seal. The Seal recognizes companies that have completed the review process and are in compliance with TAG’s rigorous anti-fraud standards.

In addition, TAG announced earlier today that more than 200 companies in the digital advertising industry from more than 20 countries have now applied for TAG Registration, a prerequisite for participation in TAG certification seal programs.

Publishers Clearing House joins a total of 23 companies that have received the TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal to date, alongside the first group of companies named in December 2016. TAG was created by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to address systemic issues in digital advertising like fraud, piracy, malware, and lack of transparency. TAG launched the Certified Against Fraud Program in May of 2016.

“Publishers Clearing House is extremely proud to be one of the first publishers to have received the TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal,” said Sal Tripi, AVP, Digital Operations and Compliance at Publishers Clearing House. “Maintaining transparency and trust with our customers and business partners is a longstanding core value of PCH.  We believe it is critical that our business partners and advertisers know that they are working with a company that stands for security, integrity, and the best business practices in the industry. The TAG certification is a win for PCH, our advertisers, and our consumers, and we will continue to work hard to uphold the strict standards that such certification represents.”

TAG Registered companies have been verified as legitimate participants in the digital advertising industry through a proprietary background check and review process powered by Dun & Bradstreet and subsequent approval by TAG. Following their approval, companies can be searched by name – or by their unique, persistent TAG-IDs – through the TAG Registry.
 

About the Trustworthy Accountability Group:
The Trustworthy Accountability Group was created to foster transformational improvement at scale across the digital advertising ecosystem, focusing on four core areas: eliminating fraudulent traffic, combating malware, fighting ad-supported Internet piracy to promote brand integrity, and promoting brand safety through greater transparency. For more information on TAG, please visit tagtoday.net.

Cultivating Data Scientists

Cultivating Data Scientists

This article first appeared in DZone, written by Robert Swerdlow, Engineering Manager. 

Data science is now table stakes. Five years ago, it was identified as the sexiest job of the twenty-first century. Now, nearly all competitive companies are committed to data science

As an example, my company, PCH/Media, has access to an enormous amount of data. Our parent company, Publishers Clearing House, does over $1 billion in e-commerce each year, has relationships with about 75% of U.S. households, and maintains over 100 million user profiles. We have people working hard to making this data actionable, and my unit is charged with proving the business value of new ideas, by collecting or analyzing data.

Yet, "value" is subjective. It is slippery. Different points of view color the worth of the data, even within an organization. Some workers, like your web team, collect data as a byproduct of their work. Others, like your business analysts, crunch data and send out reports. Other teams are tasked with increasing performance, reducing costs, or optimizing the user experience. How can you leverage all their expertise and best tap the value of your data and use it to make money?

By cultivating data scientists!

That is not to say you don't already have good, reliable people dissecting your data every day. The challenge is how to help them. How do you to measure, discuss, and grow analytic capabilities and data scientists?

With a data science yardstick.

A Rubric for Data Analysts and Data Scientists

Here's my cut at it: the Data Analysts and Data Scientists Rubric.  

This document was inspired by our Software Engineers Rubric, developed by my colleague Josh Begleiter. You will see plenty of overlap between the two. Hopefully, you will find these documents useful for planning, hiring, and developing your employees, too.

The Data Analysts and Data Scientists Rubric is intended to answer questions like:

  • What’s the difference between junior data analysts, data analysts, and data scientists?
  • What are data analysts and data scientists supposed to know?
  • Where does my knowledge place me?

Of course, there is a lot of room for debate here: adapt the rubric to fit your needs. In fact, please let me know how you improve the rubric — I may decide to adopt some of your changes.

Data Scientists Do Not Have to Be Programmers

One decision may surprise some readers: data analysts and data scientists need not be programmers. Of course, they write queries and Excel formulas and may need to write scripts to manipulate data. However, software development work, even if just for internal tools, should be the responsibility of people who have the training and the mindset to write and maintain production code. Most data teams are big enough now to let people focus on what they are good at, with data scientists and software engineers collaborating.

That said, data analysts and data scientists should focus on extracting value from data.

It's All About That Data

The Data Analyst/Data Scientist Rubric describes employees' relationship to data. In brief:

  • Junior data analysts manipulate and report on existing data.
    • They answer: "What does the data say?"
    • They use tools like database systems (SQL), Excel, and statistics to do their work.
  • Data analysts add experience and industry specific knowledge.
    • They answer: "What does the data mean?" and "What should we do about it?"
    • They usually have Big Data experience, the ability to assess confidence, and the depth of knowledge to know how the organization should react
  • Data scientists add vision and insight to go beyond the actual data.
    • They answer: "What will the data look like in the future?" and "How does the data help us position our offerings for success?"
    • They have lots of data experience, the ability to infer conclusions from the data, and the ability to assess risks and rewards

The last category could have been called "Senior Data Analysts", but the industry has adopted "Data Scientist" instead. This is fine, since it implies the ability to envision and test new theories about data.

The Rubric Will Need to Change with the Times

Of course, new technologies for Big Data, machine intelligence, and extracting data value are being invented every day. These changes will affect what a data analyst or data scientist is called on to do. For now, though, the rubric is a starting point: a place to look for important techniques, models, approaches, and mindsets. Use it as an employer or employee, analyst, or scientist to think about cultivating data science skills.

Investment in human resources around data is one bet sure to pay off.

Using Data to Create Seamless Customer Experiences

Using Data to Create Seamless Customer Experiences

A version of this article first appeared as an excerpt in an ebook called The Retail Imperative, from DM News.

DM News_Steve Bagdasarian.png

The activation of brands in retail environments is being forced to be more direct to consumers. In such a competitive market, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds might be equated to survival.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you execute:

Lead with your CRM data

Despite that the amount of data produced daily is literally quintillions of bytes, nothing will ever be better than your own data—as long as you have a CRM data strategy. The accessibility and depth of this data is the cornerstone to bridging the gap between physical and digital locations. A strong foundation in CRM materializes the reality that you know how to connect to your consumers better than anyone.

The difference in targeting via precision vs. accuracy

Accuracy is important, but don’t negate the role, and importance of, precision—the exactness in targeting. The root of the problem in creating seamless customer experiences lies in the fact that most targeting models are built on top of modeled, third-party data. While “scalable,” this type of data is generally imprecise.

A consistent plan for data governance

Not having a strong data governance policy—quality controls around your data practice—is inexcusable for any retailer looking to connect the digital and physical worlds for consumers. How long to hold it, methods to gather it, and partners with whom to share it will all be questions you face. Thus, ensure that resources are allocated appropriately and executive oversight is consistent.

Challenge vendor transparency

As marketers, we know we can’t go this path alone. Whether it’s pipes to connect the two worlds or strategies to achieve your KPIs, you need to seek out great technology partnerships. Nevertheless, as the market consolidates, bad actors will rise. Marketers need to strive to do a better job in vetting these relationships—otherwise, lots of promises can be left unfulfilled or, even worse, they could put you or your customers’ information at risk.

There has probably never been a more promising time for marketers to strategize and execute across two “worlds.” However, we are still in the early stages, so set expectations accordingly and strive to lead the market versus letting the market lead you.

PCH/Media Ranks Top 20 in AppsFlyer Performance Index

PCH/Media Ranks Top 20 in AppsFlyer Performance Index

With a focus on driving quality installs and engagement at scale, PCH/Media is proud to announce that we have once again earned top spots in AppsFlyer's latest Performance Index.

Using app installs and retention to evaluate over 1,000 media sources, the AppsFlyer report has become the industry standard for mobile app marketers looking to get the best return on their ad spend. The latest index sources numbers from H2 (July - December) 2016, breaking down top performers by region, category, and platform.

Here's how PCH/Media stacked up this time around for Gaming in North America:

  • Android: #18
  • iOS: #19

See the full report here.

Want to learn how to access PCH/Media's premium audience of loyal and engaged users? Get in touch!

Case Study: MilkPEP

Case Study: MilkPEP

The Challenge

PCH/Media was charged with helping FCB/RED and their client MilkPEP – the national milk marketing organization responsible for campaigns like Got Milk? and Milk Moustache – to increase traffic, registrations, and engagement for a promotion they were running as part of a larger Team USA Olympics Sponsorship.

Brought on board eight weeks into the 11-week campaign, PCH/Media had just three weeks to create a plan, turn around a proposal, and generate results.

The Strategy

PCH/Media used our first-party, premium audience data to create personalized, one-to-one mobile and desktop ad experiences.

The Tactics

Taking what we already knew about FCB/RED’s target, PCH/Media used our first-party demo, behavioral, and purchase insights to accurately identify and build two core audiences of PCH customers who would be most likely to engage with the MilkPEP campaign: Moms and Coupon-Takers.

Within four days of our first meeting with FCB/RED, PCH/Media was running hyper-targeted, personalized ads to these audiences across Publishers Clearing House properties on desktop and mobile. The campaign was live for 11 days.

The Results

Engagement

In just 11 days, PCH/Media delivered nearly the same number of registrations that previous marketing tactics had delivered in the first 48 days.

  • 197% increase in average traffic per day
  • 310% increase in average registrations per day
  • Exceeded registration goal by over 30%

In-Store Sales

During the promotion, the white milk category saw:

  • 2% relative sales lift at grocery
  • 1.3% relative sales lift at Walmart

In a time of category declines, this increase was like moving mountains for the category and the milk brands.

Insights and Leads

Along with the registration results, PCH/Media provided personalized shopper audience insights for the category and added thousands of new leads to the MilkPEP email database. These insights and leads will continue to add value to future MilkPEP promotions and offers.

Age & Gender Targeting Are Broken

Age & Gender Targeting Are Broken

A version of this article first appeared in Adweek.

Over the last few months, several reports have described major inaccuracies in age and gender targeting. Pinsight Media reported that 60% of age data on mobile exchanges is not only inaccurate—it’s also off by an average of 10 years.

This is a big problem—a massive problem, in fact. According to Videology, 41% of digital video campaigns in the U.S. now request ratings verification such as Nielsen DAR or ComScore vCE. This number is up 115% from 19% of campaigns requesting such verification just three years ago. More campaigns are relying on age and gender targeting, yet accuracy, according to Nielsen, has not improved at all since 2014.

The Root of the Problem

Things get even worse when you overlap age with gender. For instance, Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings show that campaigns (across desktop and mobile) reaching females age 25-54 are just 40% precise!

Imagine that—in a time when you can supposedly target a mother of three kids who owns a Keurig in Denver, why is it so hard to just reach a female within a 30-year age range?

The answer, or the root of the problem, lies in the data from which most ad targeting models are derived. Modeled, third-party data is typically used because it is scalable, easy to activate, and has almost infinite types of segments available. Problem is, it's also generally inaccurate.

Why does this matter? The challenge with data-driven ad targeting is similar to the metaphor in building a house. There are various materials and layers to the process. Each has a place in the end product, but what you put at the center, or the foundation, is most important. It’s not wrong to use third-party data, and it does have a place, but it should not be the main mix in your concrete foundation when building your house.

How to Fix It

2017 is the year for marketers to move beyond third-party, modeled data and move toward licensing first-party data from other companies.

As you navigate through the first-party data world, pay attention to how the data is being sourced, as this will have the biggest impact on quality and accuracy. Companies with registration or single-sign-on processes will generally have much higher match rates across devices, which will in turn deliver better scale.

Also, be sure to think about the value exchange between the publisher and its end user. If the user has something to gain by signing up with accurate information, you can be sure that the quality of the data will be much higher. Publishers that also have high engagement rates can then tie a user’s behavior and profile information together, just as Facebook does. 

These types of first-party data owners can partner with Krux, LiveRamp, or similar businesses to make their data easily accessible to marketers. Data owners are given the controls to determine who can and cannot use their data, and marketers are able to identify the partners that meet their objectives. Platforms like Krux and LiveRamp can also combine similar data sets in order to build more scalable segments.

First-party data is far more accurate than third-party data, but we do need more participants in these marketplaces to improve the accessibility and availability of segments. As publisher participation rates and the matching of buyers and sellers continue to improve, these data exchanges will take off.  

What’s Next

The promise of this strategy is that marketers can use first-party data from other companies to chip away at the wasted impressions they are serving to the wrong audiences. The odds that a 25-year-old is in the market for a baby stroller are considerably lower than those for a 35-year-old. Marketers are pouring hefty resources into defining their target audiences, and their campaigns should deliver ads to those segments they’ve picked.

To begin to close this accuracy gap, I propose nailing down the basics this year with something as simple as improving age and gender targeting. Publishers, marketers, and platforms will need to work closely together to make this happen. Next, with a solid foundation of accurate data, we can focus on harder problems like packaging up insights to help target the people marketers need to reach.

Want to learn more about PCH/Media's approach to accurate audience targeting? Get in touch here!

Understanding the Evolution of KPIs

Understanding the Evolution of KPIs

A version of this article first appeared in Target Marketing.

When I sat down to write about the evolution of key ad metrics, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how the definitions of words change over time. It dawned on me that, while oftentimes the definitions don’t necessarily change, they do take on new meaning. Think about words like “sick,” “nice,” “sweet,” and “nasty”—their meanings have changed because people started using them in new ways.

Digital media is not immune to this phenomenon. We live in a world where KPIs change and meanings of those KPIs change depending on who you ask.

Two examples of KPIs facing evolving meanings are viewabilty and video completion rate.

Viewability

When the idea of viewability was introduced about three years ago, it was thought of as a metric—some would even call it a vanity metric. It was seen as something you measured alongside impressions and clicks. The first legitimate definition of viewability came from the IAB in 2014, which stated that “a display ad is viewable if 50% or more of its pixels appear on-screen for at least one second.”

Fast-forward to now. While the IAB’s definition of viewability hasn’t changed, what viewability means to the industry has. 

Last year, when GroupM announced that it would have a strict viewability standard of 100%, they immediately changed how anyone working with the world’s largest media investment group thinks about viewability. The same thing has happened industry-wide: viewability is no longer just a metric but rather a standard—it's a primary campaign KPI and, in some places, a currency. GroupM was like the Vine video using the term “on fleek,” and the rest of us are the industry professionals left trying to figure out how to properly work this phrase into conversation. (For the record, I’m a millennial and I still don’t know.)

Viewability is complex because it proves that while we may not all be speaking the same language, we are essentially saying the same thing: advertisers should only have to pay for ads that are actually viewed by humans.

In some ways, the meaning of viewability is a matter of linguistics and philosophy, and it’s a question of how closely we should link the two disciplines. To be successful agency partners, we must understand that GroupM’s standard is not the same as Cadreon’s which is not the same as Accuen’s. Some campaigns look for 100% viewability, some look for 50%, some for two seconds, and some for one second—but while the meaning may differ, the basic philosophy behind the purpose of viewability remains the same.

Video Completion Rate

Video completion rate might seem to be a more straightforward KPI, but it’s actually another example of a shifting metric that is more complex than originally thought.

Video completion rate is no longer just the ratio of completed views to video views. It has evolved. Some agencies still calculate it based on the full length of the video, some consider three seconds in to be a full video view, and some look at the percent viewed by non-human traffic versus human traffic.

If a publisher boasts that they have “high completion rates,” they must understand that this is no longer a linear metric. How will you stack up when your client is only willing to pay you on a cost-per-completed-view basis? 

Planning for the KPIs of Tomorrow

Today, some campaigns measure “non-human traffic,” but tomorrow could they decide that they’re only willing to pay vendors on this metric? If a campaign measures how “on-target” your demographic targeting truly is, how could this evolve into something bigger? 

To speak the same language, we must listen, think, and only then build. Listen to third-party measurement companies and agency clients. Think about how we, as partners, stack up against varied meanings of the same KPI. And build products and content that support these multiple meanings—which will, in turn, help us better prepare for the KPIs of tomorrow.

Get in touch to learn how PCH/Media can help you hit your KPIs and crush your goals.

 

Debunking the Myths of Programmatic Delivery

Debunking the Myths of Programmatic Delivery

A version of this article first appeared in Ad Age.

Programmatic. Automation. Private Marketplaces. Guaranteed Deals.

These are the buzz words that made us all think that everything was simple, required few resources, and would make us not only a ton of money but—more importantly—more margin. We thought we could pull in stronger yield with leaner teams and less overhead. We were wrong, and we've learned a lot through the process. 

Let’s talk through some of the assumptions that carried us into the growth of programmatic deal channels in 2015 and early 2016—and why they turned out to be not as true as we thought they were. 

Programmatic deals don’t require the same sales cycle as managed service. 

Many thought that as the market moved to programmatic, we’d see sales teams as lean as they’d ever been and margins would skyrocket with the decreased overhead. The reality is, while the means of execution have changed, we’re still talking to the same marketers who want transparency and understanding of the content and the sellers they are working with.

Convincing a retail giant to spend tens of thousands of ad dollars with you through programmatic is no different than asking for an IO of the same amount. The real difference comes into play with the delivery and controls that the marketer can keep in-house—the power to change those budgets at any time.  

Set it and forget it—right? 

Wrong. With viewability and performance metrics as the driving force behind keeping a budget live, there really is no “set it and forget it” when it comes to selling media. We need placement and targeting optimizations in order to continue to exceed client benchmarks, and those happen with tools for reporting, helpful automation from systems, and thoughtful human optimization and planning.

Do we need the same resources on call for a private marketplace campaign as a managed service campaign with the same budget? No—but we do still need significant resources to be able to be successful in this field. 

Viewability is one-size-fits-all.

Measuring for viewability—or any of the vanity metrics we all track—is completely dependent on the measurement company used and the guidelines set by the advertiser. Everyone has their own definition of what is acceptable, and both buyers and sellers need to get on the same page with what that is. Who is going to be the measuring partner? What are factors that determine a successful measurement? These are the questions you need to ask before you end up with the “my-reports-don’t-match-yours” headache.

Programmatic deals are going to scale fast and stay strong.

While this one is certainly possible, you have to understand the vulnerability of this business line. Just because a client says they want to run on your inventory and give you a price, target budget, and deal ID, it doesn’t mean that’s money in the bank.  

One of the biggest benefits to buyers here is the level of control that they keep—which means that they can turn off or decrease spend at any time. The risk is worth the reward, but don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

The client said yes. Let’s get it live right now!

There’s a lot of troubleshooting that happens to turn on a deal: do both parties have the right connections in place, are your targeted segments passing in the right bid requests, are they applying targeting on their side that is messing up the bid rate? I’m sure this is one that will taper off with time as tech and buyers get more savvy, but it’s not usually a five-minute turnaround to see the revenue flowing in. Don’t forget to thank your ad ops and solutions engineering teams for their help here!

The moral? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

But that doesn’t mean programmatic isn’t a channel to invest heavily in. It’s where we should all be in order to live in an advertising world with transparency, control, and fair value pricing—but it takes work to make it successful.

Regarding the Methbot Report

Regarding the Methbot Report

Publishers Clearing House is aware that our domains, along with thousands of other premium domains, have been included on the list of publishers impersonated by the Russian botnet Methbot (read the full White Ops report here).

We want you to know that we take fraud very seriously and have anti-fraud partnerships in place to protect our clients in situations like this. Throughout the time that Methbot was running, we were actively monitoring malvertising across our sites via MediaTrust, RiskIQ, and GeoEdge. We also have NHT monitoring in place across all video supply via ComScore and MOAT.

It appears that the impact to PCH traffic has been nonexistent and inventory quality remains stable. We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you posted here on our blog as we learn more.

As always, please feel free to reach out to your PCH rep if you have any questions or concerns. If you’d like to read more about the Methbot operation, check out these articles on CNBC and AdExchanger.

Will the Real Premium Publishers Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Premium Publishers Please Stand Up?

If you have ever asked for an advertising budget from a digital media planner, you’ve most likely been told, “We only work with premium publishers.”

Working for an ad network early on, I remember carefully choosing publishers for media campaigns that would satisfy a brand’s appetite for premium. These publishers were the usual suspects: the big sports names, the ones with the well-known and well-loved acronyms. No games, no social networks—nothing my mother wouldn’t be familiar with. Premium simply meant that the brand would be proud to have their name next to the logo. 

What Does Premium Really Mean?

One of the definitions of the word “premium” is “of exceptional quality or greater value than others of its kind; superior.” The advertising community determines the superiority of one publisher over another and thus gives the “premium” publisher the ability to charge more.

But what does a premium publisher look like today?

Programmatic facilitated a new premium. And the most obvious first signs of this transformation arrived with the growth of mobile advertising.  

Publishers who celebrated their superiority in the desktop world were unpleasantly surprised when they offered their mobile inventory to advertisers in a programmatic environment. Low CPMs and fill rates were met with much head scratching as publishers struggled to understand why their premium stamps of approval were not translating from desktop into mobile.

Many heated conversations transpired between the powerful premium publishers of desktop and their SSPs. Why were the mobile CPMs not complementary to desktop? Why weren’t top advertisers interested in bidding on their inventory? Mobile must not be that important. How dare these DSPs not see the value?

What these publishers failed to understand was that their name alone would no longer demand a plethora of bidding at a high CPM.

So, which mobile publishers were generating the high CPMs?

Mobile app publishers passing device IDs and actual latitude/longitude data became the new “premium.” DSPs and advertisers were willing to pay more—a lot more—for these publishers. As the traditional premium publishers refused to invest in the most sought-after platform (app) and were unwilling to pass the proper data, they were bypassed in superiority by mobile publishers that were—gasp—gaming publishers, utility publishers, publishers with names that were neither well-recognized nor well-loved. They were names I would never have dared to put on a traditional media plan, yet they were now commanding respect and loftier prices in the open exchange.

Programmatic and the Evolution of Premium

EMarketer recently reported that, in 2016, US programmatic digital display ad spending will reach $22.10 billion, an increase of 39.7% over last year, which represents 67.0% of total digital display ad spending in the US. As more and more managed service budgets pour into programmatic, the list of premium publishers continues to evolve. Agencies have become smarter about how they buy digital media. Advertisers are now investing dollars with publishers that previously would not have been allowed in their reception lobby, let alone on a media plan.

Generally speaking, advertisers today are increasingly less concerned about a publisher’s name (within reason) and more concerned about the following: Was my ad viewable? Did the user watch my entire video? Can the publisher provide me with unique first-party data to target against at scale that I can’t get elsewhere? Is this data very accurate? Does the publisher require their users to log in across multiple screens to access content? Did my inventory perform?

If the answer to all of the above is “YES,” you may be on the road to earning yourself a premium title.  

A well-known publisher may always be welcome on a traditional media plan and within the lobby of a major agency. However, the workflow of an insertion order and its transactional output will eventually succumb to automation. Rich first-party data will only increase in significance. The traditional “premium” publishers have a lot of work to do to defend their title.

As the digital media world shifts to a more intelligent and automated way of buying, and “viewability,” “data,” and “completion rates” become the new sexy, get ready to welcome some new names onto the premium playing field.

And be prepared to show them some respect. 

Let’s Be Honest: A Call to Put KPIs into Perspective

Let’s Be Honest: A Call to Put KPIs into Perspective

We’ve all been guilty of overusing industry speak—of succumbing to the digital advertising jargon or strategies that everyone is talking about at the moment. But the truth is, when we speak only in terms of things like scalability, relevancy, viewability, and CPI, we lose sight of what we’re actually trying to achieve… and what these metrics really mean.

Understanding the implications of measuring by a single metric

All too often, RFPs come our way that say something along the lines of, “Show us how you can get us 80% viewability on $50,000 on mobile and reach an eCPI below $5.” There are a lot of metrics crammed in there, but no indication of what the client is really looking for as the end goal.

Does the client realize that a CPI goal indicates that we’re guaranteeing an install that can only occur after a download, which happens after a click, which means that an impression was seen? At that point, guaranteeing viewability is superfluous, but it’s put on the plan for the sake of comfort.

As Tommy Boy said, “Here's the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box 'cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside.” And that’s exactly it. We’ve lost sight of the purpose of a KPI, a key performance indicator

What do you really want?

The problem with looking at any metric in isolation is that you begin to deprioritize your ultimate objective. Marketers need to define their end goal and work with media providers to determine the best stepping stones to get there. But this whole process needs to start with open communication.

Asking for and paying for viewability without identifying the final goal as being a $50 purchase puts both teams in a bind—buyers can’t optimize toward what works and planners don’t get what they’re ultimately looking for.

Sure, impressions are the top of the funnel, and increasing the number of people that see your ad will boost the chances that the next step in the path to purchase will be realized, but simply asking for a metric doesn’t get anyone where they want to be.

Metrics have a purpose, and a key performance indicator should be just that—an indicator that another action should follow. Understanding the path to purchase for every advertiser—and the logic behind that path—is vital to success on both ends. 

Breaking it down

There are so many areas of our lives where we use KPIs to help us understand progress against an ultimate goal. Think about why this article is even relevant to you and how you got where you are right now… it probably started with wanting a job. You worked on your resume and you were super proud that you sent it out to 20 companies – someone has to bite, right?

Well – think of those 20 resume submissions as impressions. You hope all 20 people read your resume, but the only way to know for sure is some sort of validation: an email or call that it was received. You’re realistic though and you understand it would be unlikely to get 20 responses, so you set a goal for yourself – you really want 3 of those 20 to get back you. You found it: your first KPI. In reaching this moment, you haven’t met your goal, but you know you’re that much closer to getting there.

Now for the big moments… call backs, interviews, coffee dates. Each item feels like a win in the moment, but the reality is that they are all subsequent stepping stones to getting you to that paycheck. You wouldn’t submit your resume to 20 companies in hopes of 3 responses without ultimately wanting a job, so why ask for 70% viewability without explaining that you’re really hoping for a 3% conversion rate on your loyalty program sign-up?

The bottom line

Mini goals are important, they break down large tasks into bite-sized chunks that feel achievable, and therefore are achievable. But metrics are only valuable if you take them at face value and understand how they contribute to your ultimate goal. You know what you’re working toward—whether it’s gaining an email sign-up, an Instagram follower who sees your posts daily, a one-time customer who makes a $20 purchase, or a loyal customer who spends $3 every couple of days at the same coffee joint. Whatever the target objective may be, the most important thing is to make sure that it is universally understood.

It’s time to be open and transparent with your agencies, tech providers, and media companies.

Explain your end goal and the path to purchase your users take. Recognize the value in each individual KPI and listen to feedback from your partnerships if they think you’re looking at the wrong KPI – you hired them for their expertise, after all. There isn’t “one metric to rule them all.” Many things contribute to success, but marketers and media teams need to be aligned on where we’re going in order to achieve it.

LIQUID IS NOW PCH/MEDIA!

LIQUID IS NOW PCH/MEDIA!

 

Publishers Clearing House has long been known as a platform offering a chance to win, but over the last few years it has also gained recognition as a key player in the digital advertising space under the name “Liquid.” Now, in an effort to more closely align PCH’s B2B offering with the rest of the company, we are excited to announce that the Liquid arm of the business is rebranding to PCH/Media.

At a time when advertising technology is becoming increasingly complex and confusing, our goal is to make our B2B brand story and products as simple and straightforward as possible. Our story starts with our audience data, and it’s undeniable that that data comes from PCH’s customer registrations, engagement, and purchase activity. Changing our name to PCH/Media communicates upfront—clearly and simply—who we are and what we do: 

We are from PCH. We offer media solutions.

Finally, you’ll notice that the style and imagery of our new brand looks quite a bit different from before. We are moving away from stock photography and instead relying on photos of diverse groups of people who represent the real experiences of life in America and with our brand. Our data comes from real Americans consumers—PCH members—and our goal is to portray the tangible, human element of this data in contrast with the anonymous, cookie-based data that is so prevalent in market today.  

We are from PCH. We offer media solutions. And our data comes from real, American people.

So what does this mean for you? A cleaner, simpler experience—with the same innovative products, reliable data, and consultative service you’ve come to expect.

Contact us to learn how PCH/Media can help you run more effective campaigns.