R is for RTB

In the latest addition to our A-Z of Adtech series our Product Compliance Director, Kelly Jacobson Collins, takes a look at RTB and the ICO’s latest report.

Real-time Bidding (RTB) is a fundamental pillar of programmatic advertising and refers to the automated buying and selling of online ad impressions through real-time auctions which take place in milliseconds. Those auctions are facilitated and underpinned by an evolved adtech industry of which Unruly is part.

I hear the ICO released an important report recently?

In June, the ICO (the UK “data protection authority”) released their ‘Update Report Into Adtech and Real-Time Bidding’ report. It focuses on the legalities and contractual complexities of the adtech supply chain via RTB.

It surmises that the “adtech industry appears immature in its understanding of data protection requirements. While the automated delivery of ad impressions is here to stay, we have general, systemic concerns around the level of compliance of RTB”.

Tell me more about the Report…

A large part of the Report focuses on RTB and the ICO lays out its concerns around general levels of compliance to both the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations). My top four takeaways (from the 25-page report) are as follows:

  • Many companies currently rely on legitimate interests as a legal basis where it may not be appropriate to do so
  • For special category data, a company always needs explicit consent
  • Privacy information provided to users isn’t clear
  • One bid request can share a user’s personal data across hundreds of organisations via the programmatic network  
What does this mean for advertisers and publishers?

The ICO has advised the industry which includes vendors, publishers and advertisers that they have six months to “re-evaluate their approach to privacy notices, use of personal data, and the lawful bases they apply with the RTB ecosystem”. 

In the meantime, the ICO will continue to fact find, engage with key stakeholders and work with other Data Protection Authorities. If these changes limit inventory available for targeting then inevitably more advertising revenue could flow to GAFA where advertisers can find data-rich walled gardens.

The Unruly view 

The role of the ICO is to uphold data protection laws, not to kill the advertising or publishing industry. They are having to tread a fine line between protecting consumers, abiding by laws and stifling industry growth.

The IAB Europe represents the Ad Tech industry’s voice with the ICO and the IAB TCF v2.0 will give some clarity on how the industry can collectively proceed. Ultimately, it isn’t RTB per se that the ICO has an issue with, it’s the sharing of personal data within it. However without targeting what is the value of the RTB? Should we be looking for a new mechanism and way of valuing impressions?

Read more of our A-Z of Adtech series for a comprehensive overview of how the Adtech sector looks today.

For the next in our A-Z of adtech we take a look at how to decide whether a site is quality/premium.

If you work in the advertising sector you’ve most likely heard of quality or premium environments. This idea of quality environments grew and really took off around the time that negative stories around social media first emerged in the press.

Where did this all begin?

fake news

Stories like fake news being spread through Facebook, and ads appearing alongside extremist and degrading videos on YouTube have really driven awareness for advertisers and brands around where their ads appear.

We now have well-know advertising moguls, brand leaders, multiple reports and research studies from across the globe that confirm the idea that advertising in quality environments is an effective way to reach consumers and build brand recognition.

“45% of consumers trusted advertising they saw on original content sites”  (AOP and Comscore).

“Consumers are 50% more likely to engage with advertising encountered in a quality environment”  (Newsworks).

“Ads run on trusted titles are 85% more likely to drive customer acquisition”  (IPA)

“Ads viewed in high-quality mobile web environments were perceived 74% more favourably than the same ads seen in low-quality environments”  (IAS).

This is all well and good, but how do you define quality?

Quality environments

The difficulty with quality environments is that everyone sees quality differently. Your age, ethnicity, background and gender can all affect what sites you visit and how you define quality.

At Unruly, in order to decide whether a website can be classed as quality or not, we ask ourselves five questions.

1. Does it contain user-generated content (UGC)?

Social media and sites like Wikipedia and Quora are all powered by UGC. Usually, with these sites, anyone can contribute and in many cases, the content is not audited meaning it could contain false claims.

2. Is it produced by professionals?

By professionals we mean are people paid to run the site. Most news sites are considered premium because they pay journalists to report and write stories which are then audited and published on the sites.

3. Is it industry compliant?

There are a number of industry standards that now exist to combat fraudulent sites. Initiatives from trade bodies like the IAB, like ads.txt, help advertisers and brands know which sites have passed certain guidelines and committed to meet specific standards.

4. Does it contain adult or discriminatory content?

If a site contains adult or discriminatory content like hate speech or extremism, it’s a good sign they aren’t a premium site. If you spot content that you wouldn’t want to be associated with it’s a good sign that you should steer clear.

5. How does it look?

It may sound simple but in a lot of cases, you can tell within the first few seconds of landing on a site whether it looks quality or not. Sites that contain more ad space than content, have multiple pop-up windows or take forever to load are all signs that the site is likely not somewhere you’d want your ads to sit.

There are of course many more questions you can ask to asses whether a site is quality or not, but these 5 questions are a great start.

We’re lucky enough to work with some of the globe’s leading premium publishers. Click here to discover the full list.

Check out the rest of our A-Z of adtech series!

In our latest addition to the A-Z of adtech, our Programmatic wiz, Paul Gubbins, breaks down and simplifies the different types of programmatic advertising. If you need a short and sweet guide to programmatic, you’ve come to the right place!

Why are there so many types of programmatic advertising? 

With more flavours than Baskin Robbins, it is easy to understand how marketers and publishers get overwhelmed with the variety of programmatic buying and selling models available. It used to be straight forward. Buyers negotiated price and volume of impressions to be served directly with the publisher and cemented this commitment via a signed insertion order (or IO).

During the first generation of programmatic, publishers sent their unsold inventory to supply-side platforms (SSPs) and exchanges to increase sell-through rates beyond what their direct sales teams could achieve. This captured incremental demand by exposing their site traffic to demand-side platforms (DSPs). Back then these were just cookie hunters; the idea of ‘context’ wasn’t a thing. 


This practice from publishers to adopt sell-side tech encouraged SSPs to build a new model for selling, referred to as the ‘Private Marketplace’. The PMP buying model found more air time in the press and on agency trading floors but it wasn’t without its challenges. PMPs enabled buyers to broker deals with publishers directly. They then used SSPs as the pipes in which to deliver their campaigns in a data-driven and programmatic way via their licensed DSPs.

However, there were no commitments from publishers to send a certain amount of traffic to any given PMP. This frustrated buyers as many campaigns would struggle to deliver in full and they never had delivery issues when booking via the IO. Many buyers felt that inventory being sent to PMPs was a lower priority in a publisher’s ad server than that allocated to a direct sales team.

Finally, publishers often felt short-changed due to an under-delivery from the buy-side. Because DSPs were designed to buy audience, not context, demand often fell short. This resulted in many bidders pointing at deal IDs but passing up on incoming bid requests due to the lack of an audience match.

Automated Guaranteed

Step forward Automated Guaranteed (AG), hailed as the next evolution of the PMP. Cast your mind back two years, before the noise of AI, header bidding and GDPR, everybody was releasing PR around AG. 

Here was a new way of automating publishers direct sales processes, empowering those on the buy-side with a more efficient way to book media. But AG didn’t get the traction or adoption its PR hailed, due to one key factor: it is not programmatic. It’s actually a great initiative that enables buyers to reserve inventory on a planned site in an automated way. 

Unruly’s view is that programmatic means ad buys transacted via the OpenRTB protocol with an ability to harness data at the impression level, not simply the process of automation.  

Programmatic Guaranteed

Programmatic guaranteed (PG) is the relatively new kid on the block (some call it PMP’G’ or the biddable IO). PG enables programmatic buyers to device ID or cookie match an audience with a publisher prior to flight dates and, crucially, pre-agree a fixed price so long as the publisher sends the correct ID on their bid request via SSP/exchange to the buyer’s DSP. 

PG gets people excited because it enables buyers to deal with publishers directly like the traditional PMP. Publishers feel a level of confidence around demand commitment more like their favoured IO from yesteryear. PG enables a buyer to get the same priority in a publisher’s ad server and most importantly, the buy can be transacted in a data-driven and programmatic way via the OpenRTB protocol (in English, via their DSPs).

In Summary

Publishers know programmatic demand will drive their future revenues, but there is no way they will let a buying mechanic erode their yield. Buyers know that top tier publisher supply and data costs, and programmatic execution does not translate to cheaper CPMs.

Unruly predicts that PG will become the default buying model for the majority of brand spend in display and video advertising. AG will move on to conquer DOOH and other areas that are born out of the explosive growth in IoT / OTT that don’t require the same depth of impression-level granularity that programmatic brings to display PG.

One thing is for sure; in the future of ad buying, programmatic is guaranteed!

Check out other posts in the A-Z of adtech series.

For the next in the A-Z of adtech series, our Demand BD Executive, Luca Bozzo, looks at the wonderful world of outstream, where we began, how it’s being used, and what the future holds for this format.

From humble beginnings to the fastest growing video format

Outstream as a format has achieved its original, necessary purpose: open up significantly more video supply and do it at a lower price point.

Publishers couldn’t create enough video content to keep up with the seismic spend shift to video, and demand for the burgeoning channel made CPMs balloon. Outstream solved both issues at once by opening up net new inventory while keeping CPMs low, and it’s skyrocketed since.

It’s only natural that traders, platforms, and publishers all took note. According to the IAB, outstream is now the fastest growing video format, but with increased interest in the format and with the typical “MADtech” craziness, comes lots of confusion around what it actually means. The typical view is that outstream is less premium than in-stream (pre-/mid-/post-roll).

The various flavours of this format only add to the noise. The IAB’s Video Advertising Glossary defines outstream as “taking place outside of in-stream video content.” Definitions based in not statements are never clear and as a result four of the five possible video placements in oRTB v2.5 fall under the umbrella of “outstream.”

Based on the above definition, two key issues arise here:
1) When is outstream good and when is it not?
2) How do we instil confidence in a format that’s not seen in the best light?

Outstream done wrong

red light

In today’s environment, not all outstream is created equal but is treated equally.

How many times have you hit an article and had a video start playing with sound on full blast, but not actually be on the screen? After frantically finding it, there’s no way to close or even mute it! That type of experience is wrong and gives the format as a whole a bad rep. For more on, and to find out how we’re tackling it check out our article on HAVOC.

Other types of bad outstream include units that play below an article’s related section but bill off a CPM. This is detrimental to advertisers, especially when users’ median scroll depth on a typical article is 60% of the total content.

Some variations of outstream aren’t as bad, but just can’t be effectively communicated right now. Most advertisers wouldn’t intentionally buy these experiences – they’re arguably part of the declaration fraud problem as reported by AdExchanger – but perhaps some might.

Ultimately, outstream should look like the golden rule in action – give users the experience you’d want on the web. At Unruly, we pride ourselves on delivering polite formats. Our flagship in-article unit initiates once it comes into view (the industry standard billing event for outstream), our ads have sound-off by default and are skippable! And that’s all on ultra premium supply – 90% of our views get delivered on comScore 1000 sites.

Embodying the golden rule starts with communication. When there’s no way to differentiate between good and bad outstream experiences, it’s all lumped together and will obviously not be positive.

Outstream done right

green light

It can produce staggering impacts across performance, consumer attitudes and engagement, and buyer targeting. Good outstream is arguably more valuable than good in-stream, and definitely more valuable than bad in-stream.

In-article videos that are high up on a premium publisher’s page can drive a 23% higher viewability than in-stream with 25% lower IVT rates, according to eMarketer.

Polite outstream ups brand favorability. While in-stream today resembles a second form of “rewarded” video (only the prize isn’t coins in Simcity but the Kardashian video you wanted to watch in the first place), good outstream is 4x less likely to be deemed “extremely intrusive” and increases purchase intent by 50%.

Lastly, outstream opens up new targeting opportunities since it can run anywhere. Brands can reach their key consumers when and where it makes sense to do so. Outstream also drastically increases touchpoints – we saw a 4.8x uplift in views on campaigns targeting in-stream when they added in-article.

What does the future hold?

Given the many forms, outstream can take and how drastic these differences can be, it’s imperative that buyers know what they’re actually buying. New signals in bid requests are a great first step but are behind (remember that video.placement was included in January 2017 with oRTB v2.5 – not that long ago).

Accurately communicating variables like start and end pixel sizes, the unit’s depth into an article, video skippability, whether the placement type changes during the experience, etc. will build buyer confidence and help publishers feel better about using this powerful format.

From a transparency perspective, more communication naturally creates more trust. Because buyers will better understand what outstream they want, they can actively pursue it. That will inadvertently shift spend to positive experiences and force poorer quality inventory to adapt or die. And when outstream auctions fully move to the header and all major SSPs are competing for every impression, the platforms that can communicate clearest will succeed.

Find out more about Unruly’s formats.

Check out other posts in the A-Z of adtech series.

In this edition of the A-Z of adtech, we examine how premium environments like news sites, boost metrics for video ads.

A recent study by Newsworks and the Association for Online Publishing (AOP) looked at ads in premium environments compared to social media and found some interesting results…


So what does all this mean?

Left brain memory encoding, which processes words and detail, is 42% stronger when people view ads on premium editorial sites than when they see the same ads on social media sites.

Right brain memory encoding (higher emotional intensity) is strong for both premium sites and social media, but ads on premium sites still generate a 9% stronger response.

Ads on premium sites are viewed for an average of 17% longer compared to ads on social media.

The study found that ads on premium sites created 29% higher engagement (personal relevance) compared to ads on non-premium sites.

Ads seen within a premium context also elicit stronger, more positive emotional responses, and ads that evoke an above average emotion score deliver a 23% uplift in sales volume.

Check out the full report.

Find out more about our UnrulyX and UnrulyEQ product offerings.