Contextual Advertising and Trust

Marketers are increasingly likely to buy media that consumers trust, that they believe is giving them good value for what they pay, and that their target audiences engage with.  Although that should always have been the case, there’s now a name for this: the flight to quality.

The flight to quality pulls consumers toward publishers who have reader trust that they can “share,” almost like a halo effect, with an advertiser. Last year Galaxy Research, an Australian company, interviewed nearly 3000 Australians to see what kind of media they trusted most. For people 18 and older, the highest levels of trust were in movie ads and newspaper ads, and the lowest  levels of trust were in social. TV and digital news scored in the middle.

One Australian consumer went so far as to say that “I trust the newspapers and their websites to only accept reputable advertising.”

On the other hand, since the American election, there is a new global awareness of the problem of fake news and the spread of digital misinformation like wildfire through networks. This is a problem for both publishers and advertisers, as the Galaxy study showed that greater trust in ads translates to greater purchase intent.

Most apparent in the study was the general decline of trust in all media and all ads by people who are above 55. These people still trusted newspapers the most, but their level of trust was higher for community and local papers than for national papers. They also trusted radio.

Anecdotally, this translates to a high level of trust for “talk radio” in the American 55+ population, and its subsequent support by major national brands.

Given the fact that this study was done in Australia and completed before the revelations of Cambridge Analytica, a surprising fact was the low level of trust consumers of any age placed in social media advertising. One consumer said “So many frauds and scammers on social media at the moment and really no way to be sure the advertisement is legit or not.”

What does this mean? For us it means that advertisers want to buy media whose messages are trusted by consumers. Greater trust in content leads to greater trust in ads, which leads to greater intent to purchase. And news media, both print and digital, have highly trusted content and ads.

As Galaxy says, “brands are known by the company they keep.”


Making Mobile InApp Advertising Better

We all know that mobile app advertising is not as simple as advertising on the desktop through a browser. And yet, all consumers now spend most of their time on their phones, so it’s a problem that must be solved. In theory. IAB has solved it, but there are still outstanding issues:

MRAID, or “Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions” is the common API (Application Programming Interface) for mobile rich media ads that will run in mobile apps. This is a standardized set of commands designed to work with HTML5 and JavaScript that developers creating rich media ads use to communicate what those ads do (expand, resize, get access to device functionalities such as the accelerometer, etc) with the apps into which they are being served.

Without MRAID different apps (incorporating different rich media vendors’ SDKs) have disparate requirements in terms of the APIs that creative developers must use to communicate with the app. Therefore, the same creative must be rewritten in order to run across different apps. MRAID offers a single API that diverse SDK vendors will support, which means that MRAID-compliant rich media ads will run within applications using any MRAID-compliant SDK. MRAID therefore enables creative agencies and rich media shops to more quickly and easily build rich creative that will run in different publishers’ mobile apps.

The first issue is dealing with application developers; getting an advertising SDK into their mobile apps is tricky. App developers may want to monetize their apps, but on the other hand they do not want to destroy their user experience. This leaves brands at the mercy of app developers.

We try our hardest to get those developers to add or update our SDK into their apps. But we’ve found we have to try a different approach in case we can’t get them to do it.

This approach is called MRAID WnE, and it isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

ZINC has built an MRAID creative that has WnE functionality built in. We are currently running some tests on TTD to understand the performance and practical feasibility of this approach.

Where will it be useful?

If we want to run our WnE Ads on Apps that  have not integrated our SDK, we can buy inventory using our MRAID WnE.

Can VPAID JS run in apps? We want to know.

We are also doing other product development experiments. There are many advertising SDKs out there, and many of them offer video. We don’t currently know how many of them are using their own video players, rather than the native player to serve video ads, and how many of them can play VPAID JS.

New learning is very important, and because mobile app advertising is so new, especially video, every bit of new knowledge we gain will help us innovate.

And we are hell bent to keep our reputation as the most innovative company in the business.

Trafficking UI for WnE

We are also making life easy for our AdOps team.  Soon, WnE Ads trafficking will be an automated and speedy task, with no manual work and thus none of the errors manual work generates.


2018 For the Agency Business

There’s no doubt that advertising is changing very fast and that traditional agencies must adapt. WPP has already admitted this in several different ways: first in their earnings reports, and second in the way they are buying up small agencies in order to get customers and economies of scale. That might be a mistake, since they’re only adding to their infrastructure. And even if it does work for now,  this tactic will not work forever because what is changing is the nature of advertising itself,  not just the nature of the agency.

Yes, it is true that  the agency of record concept is going away. Building a brand is difficult and requires everything from brand strategy to messaging to communications to internal training to advertising and public relations, not to mention navigating legal issues around privacy and security. As we all know the privacy rules are changing next year and there will be new standards we in the business all must follow. Most agencies don’t have equivalent expertise in all these skill sets.

Most brands know that they need more than one agency to get the job done. But that’s the symptom and not the cause. The cause is the consumers’ changes in buying habits. As an example,  Millennials do not buy goods, they buy experiences. Therefore sponsorships of concerts and other experiences, brand partnerships and infrastructure advertising are going to grow. A small agency in Phoenix Arizona that does only large format and outdoor advertising, Blue Media, has found itself suddenly a $60m company in only a few years.

Traditional media growth, not so much.  All advertising now must be contextual.

Even digital media is going to have to adapt to this rapidly changing environment. It will have to meet users where they already are without interrupting them. This is tricky.

However, It is doable. Consumers can be incentivized or rewarded to watch ads that are non-interruptive when they are playing a game or on social media. They can also watch ads that provide information on products for which they really are in the market.  The success of the New York Times’ Wirecutter blog is an example.

Contextualizing will involve better geo-targeting rather than more invasive personal information targeting. For example if a consumer is already in a Ford dealership, it’s not invasive to show them a Honda or Chevy. They can be assumed to be in the market for a car.

To capitalize on the growth of advertising, which will be a smaller subset of marketing, the agency of the future will be smaller – sorry WPP – and more nimble then past agencies, able to expand and contract more regularly because it will have more 1099 workers than employees. It will also have to know a great deal more about business and about online marketing strategies that work —  including inbound marketing and content marketing.

Hiring is an old fashion way to respond to the typical situation agencies find themselves in today, where they are working on projects and have the need to ramp up or contract almost immediately.  The best agencies will realize this, and give up some legacy infrastructure for long-term survival.

A Moment of Thanks

Every year at Thanksgiving, I become reflective about the year that is coming to a close. It has been a tumultuous one for our industry, and for the world as a whole, but as the year draws to a close there is still much to be thankful for at ZEDO.

First, ZEDO’s incredible product development team.  Not only do our products  stay abreast of and even ahead of the industry, but they perform so well that when a customer gives us a chance to test against a competitor, we always outperform. This while taking the high road in an industry still fraught with malware, fraud, and misrepresentation.

Second, our sales teams, who never sell vaporware, but get us in front of the right customers so we can help people achieve their financial objectives on both the publisher and the advertiser side.

Third, our highly regarded support and implementation teams, for which we always receive compliments. We have always been known for our support, and this will never change because our customer relationships are not transactional — they’re personal.

Next, our customers, whom we prefer to think of as our partners. Indeed, some of our customers have been on a very long journey with us from ad serving at the turn of the century to serving advertisers with high impact formats on a secure platform today.

Fourth, our thirty party partners, the technologies that externally verify our ads to make certain we keep our promises.

And next, the industry associations we support, like IAB and the Online Trust Association, who keep on working to bring our industry greater professionalism, better research, and higher standards.

Last, but certainly not least, everyone on the ZEDO team who keeps the lights on and makes us who we are. When my friends ask me why I went into the ad tech business, I answer that it’s because of the great people I’m able to work with all the time — bright minds in a fast-moving business.

I hope you all out there in the audience remember to feel grateful for your families, your teams, your health, and your continued presence on this great planet whether it is Thanksgiving in your country or not.



Rewards-Based Advertising Works Well for Brands

Rewards-based mobile advertising is perhaps the most successful solution to the problem of how to monetize on mobile without violating the privacy of the mobile visitor. Mobile presents a unique set of problems, because a user has a smart phone with her all day, but doesn’t have much tolerance for interruptions and is fearful of advertising that violates the “creepy line.” So how to get a consumer on the go to interact with a brand without feeling violated?

The secret lies in rewarding the consumer for watching the ad. And ways of offering rewards are limited only to the creativity of the advertiser and publisher working together.

Because much of the time consumers spend looking at their phones is when they’re bored waiting in line somewhere, or riding on some form of mass transit, during those times, they’re apt to engage in casual gaming. Game developers realized that they could advertise their own new games on their competitors’ apps and share user bases. So the first reward-based ads were game developers advertising in other games.

That’s how the game developers first learned that watching an ad in exchange for getting something seems to be tolerable for consumers.. Rewards-based in-app advertising allows users to see or interact with ads in exchange for some extra benefit –game points, getting to the next level, buying more game swag. Although the apps that have used it most as a monetization strategy are games,  other types of apps are beginning to use it, because it’s an opt-in strategy in which the user maintains control of her time and attention yet the advertiser gets a measurable view.

When game publishers advertised their games on someone else’s similar gaming app, the purpose was to incentivize a download. That’s performance marketing, and that’s how rewards-based advertising began: “you can advance to Level 3 of Game A without paying for it if you watch an ad for Game B.”

However, things have gotten more sophisticated, and the interactions can now be more subtle.  At ZINC, we have come up with a format called “Watch and Engage” in which the user is encouraged to recall the name of a brand after watching and interacting with its ad. The user is then “rewarded” with the ability to progress to the next level of the game. No downloading required; just remember the name of the brand.

We think this format has broad applications outside the realm of gaming.  Users could be rewarded with coupons, discounts, or even stickers. Anything imaginative that the user desires is fair. And for brands, there is that coveted “top of mind” awareness.

To see a demo, contact


Advertising with a Human Touch Will Win

In the advertising industry we sometimes lose track of the fact that consumers aren’t users;  they are human beings.  They’re not an audience that wants to be shouted at with no input. The best brands know this. They treat their customers with respect online and off.  That means they don’t foist ads on customers at inappropriate times. It means they use every customer interaction as a way to help a consumer rather than bludgeon her.

As a real life example of how a successful brand operates I offer you Starbucks, one of the most beloved brands of this century and the last. I have been to Starbucks all over the world, and am always treated as if I mattered.

Can that be translated to online behavior? Shouldn’t it be?

This morning I ordered from my usual Starbucks using my mobile app. I frequent the same store every day, and they know me. I used to order in person, but now I order online. I order the same drink every day. This could mean I’m no longer a face, just a data point. A “Doppio” at 6:30 AM.

This morning I changed my order.  With a typical brand, this factoid might go into a database somewhere, and be part of a later calculation. But Starbucks is different because there’s still a human interface, and my deviant behavior  apparently threw my baristas into an existential crisis.  Had I made an error? Or was this a real change? They responded by preparing two drinks: the one I had ordered and my “usual” drink. I could not have been more impressed. Clearly I’m not a data point to Starbucks, even though my commerce with them has increasingly become digital.

Let’s take this with us into the world of in-app advertising. When someone is using an app — to play a game, to pass the time, or to pursue a passion, an in-app ad can be distracting and unwelcome.

But we’ve developed a form of interactive sponsorship that can be part of whatever the player is doing at the time, will help rather than interrupt them, and will also help an advertiser who wants branding that’s remembered. We think this is a fair exchange for game players that is not just one-sided.

This is not easy to do, and has involved years of research into changing consumer sentiment about online advertising.  We have learned from industry organizations, from discussions with thought leaders, and with tests on consumers.

As a result, we do none of the things with our formats that consumers hate about advertising: we do not retarget, we do not track, and we do not hold data. Instead, we try to offer online visitors a fair exchange for their time and attention.  It isn’t technology that governs our ad formats, it is respect for humanity.









CMOs Growing into New Roles

Through most of history, marketing was that touchy-feely part of an organization. with no data to defend itself. As a result, its budget was always the first one cut. That’s not longer true. Marketing leaders in every vertical are now laser-focused on precise customer insights that they can use to implement and measure the success of their marketing plans. That doesn’t mean the CMO budget is bigger; it means CMOs must do more with less. They must deploy against the right data, make the right media buys, and be prepared to provide attribution numbers.

This isn’t just a budget issue; it’s also a brand safety issue. Companies are becoming more careful about where to run advertisements, for example, knowing that their ads could run alongside an offensive message or one that simply does not align with the character of the brand they represent.

So what are the best CMOs doing? They are investing in martech.  Martech, at the very least, is a cover-your-butt technology that can help show the boss they made the right spend and the campaign worked. Most experienced CMOs who know their brands and their customers have really good intuition, but intuition is not enough anymore. It also helps to have predictive analytics.

According to Forrester Research, marketers who have adopted predictive analytics are twice as likely to exceed their revenue targets. On the other hand, most martech is not “mature” yet:

We didn’t quite find a solution that provides boatloads of intelligence about new or existing targets, reveals purchase timing, demonstrates built-in intuition about optimally designed content, and delivers that content via a customer’s desired channel – all provided with “set it and forget it” automation. Delivering on that vision is still off in the future.

But we did find that predictive marketing analytics has a place in a balanced B2B marketing technology portfolio since the category powers three distinct but core responsibilities: ongoing nurture for known accounts, cultivation of anonymous contacts at unknown accounts and, and finally, identification of new accounts showing signals of interest in a firm’s portfolio of services and offerings.

Right now, predictive analytics can only provide good buyer profiles and perhaps a sense of the propensity to buy. There’s still a big problem in using technology to find those customers who will buy:

Yet, predictive analytics are only as helpful as their data inputs, and the data sets marketers can access at this time are still fairly rudimentary when it comes to tracking true indicators of influence. Neuroscience has uncovered that decision-making is almost completely emotional, rather than rational. However, our data collection methods are not yet mature enough to provide meaningful emotional analytics at scale.

Eventually, technology will advance to the point that it can recognize and analyze physical responses tied to emotion, such as the heat I emit from my hand into my phone, or the expansion of my retina in response to a compelling piece of content. Until machines can make systematic sense of the complexity of human emotional response, we will not have tapped into the full potential of predictive analytics.

Olenski: Putting the customer front and center is key for ANY brand’s success. How can CMOs spearhead the creation of customer-centric organizations to increase their bottom line?

Hatch: Building data-driven marketing cultures has become a major role of the CMO, and it requires a complete rewiring of marketing operations. Designing organizational workflows and architecting technology around these data flows is the key to enabling a customer-centric marketing organization that drives business value.

Are Media Dollars Being Sacrificed for Impression Quality?

Answer: No. because in a recent report, Forrester Research said quality concerns might be leading marketers to scale back on programmatic, but still be willing to pay higher prices for verified inventory.

On epsiode 16 of the AdExchanger podcast,  Forrester VP Melissa Parrish says Forrester is talking an awful lot with its customers about the quality of customer experience. Her take: whether your are a brand or an agency, you must realize that the customer is all powerful and you have to serve that customer. That’s first and foremost.

The other part of quality is about the ad experience — the quality of the ad product. That’s been pushed forward by fraud and viewability concerns, and recently by fake news.. Now that programmatic is maturing — two thirds of advertisers buy programmatically, it is time to look at that ecosystem more critically. Advertisers were hearing from customers that their ads were appearing on sites they didn’t want to be on, and that was because their partners were not using the tools at their disposal, such as white lists and black lists. No one was looking at the publishers where those ads ran.

Forrester is saying take advantage of the tools at your disposal to weed out fraud and fake news. That creates an environment where the inventory becomes more premium, better targeted.  (On our platform, we did that weeding last year.)  You might be talking about a smaller number of impressions, but you will be getting in front of the right people in the right context.

Advertisers should be willing to pay a little bit more for that. Ad investment will not go down, but the spend will be done differently. Advertisers will be more strategic, and end up reaching the people they want to reach. They will, however, pay more per CPM and companies like ours will be paid on the basis of our technology and our skills rather than how cheaply advertisers can buy media, which led to the race to the bottom we have today.

What’s time timeline for this Utopia of advertising? We have already leveled up a notch or two in digital media, but it will take a while for marketers to take control in ways they have not previously felt comfortable doing. Parrish says her optimistic scenario is that more emphasis on fraud and fake news will accelerate the timeline, but she realizes how slowly companies move, and how long it took them even to shift to data-driven at all, and then to programmatic.

However, since the tools and technologies exist (we have them), it’s only a question of how long it takes for an advertiser to be willing to say “the way I’ve been doing this is not quite working” — which companies like Coke and P&G have already done. This is not a five-year horizon, because the technology is already there. So it’s a strategic and cultural change.

We are seeing more and more of these advertisers,





London Ad Industry Ponders its Future

It is impossible to overestimate the potential effect of  the recent Brexit vote on the ad industry in Europe. London has long been the center of the media industry, and the UK area is a market with the third highest digital ad spend in the world.  (Interestingly, Asia-Pacific has replaced North America this year as first, driven by the huge potential market in China.)

Thus as the UK economy grinds to a temporary halt, beset by a revolving door of politicians, citizen protests in London against the Brexit, and a currency that grows weaker by the day, people in the ad agency business are aware that they’ll feel some pain. They just can’t tell how much.

One of the secrets of the London ad industry is that innovation happens when brands nurture marketing startups through accelerators like the marketing and advertising accelerator Collider, which recruits new ideas from startups all over Europe and puts them in touch with brands. Collider’s  founder admits concern about attracting the best martech startups to London if the current freedom of movement from Europe to the UK is curtailed by the Brexit.

Another issue is whether the projected digital ad spend growth for this year, projected to be up 8%  to $12.88bn, will hold as trepidation makes businesses more conservative. The UK also spends more per capita than other countries in the top ten markets, topping the list at $201.

Ad spend of that size creates knock-on effects like job growth and office leases. 360i, for example, just tripled its space in London to 11,000 sq.ft, and expanded its staff to 90.

“The uncertainty is a huge problem,” said Nick Thomas, practice leader, digital media at consultancy firm Ovum. “Investors, advertisers and consumers don’t want to open their wallets, so it’s done huge damage already to the whole value chain.”

Thomas pointed out this uncertainty could make it tougher for newer forms and formats in media and advertising, as people will be more risk averse.

Most serious of all, however, is the feeling marketing people in London have that they are completely out of touch with the people they are selling to. London voted almost overwhelmingly to Remain, while outlying areas voted to leave the UK.

“When you’re in the business of selling to those people, you can’t help but ask, ‘How come we’ve got it so wrong?’” added Thomas. “Anyone in the information industry should be asking himself, ‘Do we understand this country anymore?’ There’s this grievance against an out-of-touch metropolitan elite. That should give us pause for thought.”





The ZEDO NY Team with the OTA Award

The ZEDO NY Team with the OTA Award

14 June 2016, NYC — ZEDO, INC., the leading private end-to-end platform for innovative advertising formats, has announced it has qualified for the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) 2016 Online Trust Honor Roll for the fourth consecutive year. This honor demonstrates excellence in data security, responsible privacy practices and overall commitment to consumer protection, helping to protect customers from increased threats of cybercriminals and abusive privacy practices. This year saw a dramatically higher bar for selection.

OTA, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with industry leaders to enhance online trust, completed comprehensive audits analyzing more than 1,000 domains and privacy policies, including approximately 100,000 web pages and more than 500 million emails for this report. The composite analysis included over two-dozen attributes focusing on 1) site & server security, 2) domain, brand, email and consumer protection and 3) privacy policy and practices. In addition to the in-depth analysis of their web sites, Domain Name Systems (DNS), outbound emails, and public records were analyzed for recent data breach incidents and FTC settlements. Key sectors audited include the Internet Retailer Top 500, FDIC 100, Top 100 Consumer Services, Top Media / Content sites, as well as OTA members and consumer facing US government sites.

“We are proud to once again recognize ZEDO for its leadership and commitment to working with peers, the industry and competitors to embrace consumer protection and embrace their right to privacy,” said Craig Spiezle. “ZEDO plays an incredibly important role in the advertising supply chain helping increase the integrity and trust of online advertising.”

“ZEDO strives to make security and privacy of its customers’ data a top priority.” stated Roy De Souza, ZEDO CEO. “We fully support the OTA’s guidelines, and we also adhere to industry guidelines for data protection. Trust is the foundation of the Internet and we need to work together moving from a compliance mindset to one of being stewards of consumer data.”

Nearly 1,000 companies comprise the Honor Roll, including ZEDO. The report indicates that company size and/or sales are not true measures of the level of security and privacy a company implements. “All companies are equally evaluated by the same criteria regardless of size. We have seen large e-retailers with significant sales fail to make the Honor Roll; conversely we have seen small to mid-size companies taking top grades,” said Spiezle.

Started in 2008 as an effort to drive adoption of best practices, the objectives of the Honor Roll are to 1) recognize leadership and commitment to best practices which aid in the protection of online trust and confidence in online services, 2) Enable businesses to enhance their security, data protection and privacy practices, 3) Move from compliance to stewardship, demonstrating support of meaningful self-regulation, and 4) Promote security & privacy as part of a company’s brand promise and value proposition.

“We are honored to be recognized for the measures we take around security and responsibility for our customers,” said De Souza. “We feel an enormous responsibility to provide protection and security for our customers.”

To review the full 2016 Honor Roll report, please download a free copy.

ABOUT The Online Trust Alliance (OTA)

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) is a member-based, non-profit representing the global internet ecosystem – including the public and private sectors. OTA’s mission is to develop and advocate best practices and public policy which mitigate emerging privacy and security threats while enhancing online trust, innovation and the vitality of the digital economy. OTA is committed to the protection of critical infrastructure, balanced legislation and data protection through the promotion of best practices, benchmark reporting, and self-regulation. For more information, visit:


ZEDO, Inc. is a platform offering clever, proprietary high impact formats that help publishers get new revenue. Known for technical innovation and ability to scale, ZEDO offers publishers products and services – including ad serving – and rich media formats with 99% viewable impressions. ZEDO also serves advertisers through ZINC, a suite of high impact formats including video and native ads on premium sites. Founded in 1999, ZEDO is headquartered in New York, with offices

In San Francisco and Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Seattle and Phoenix. As the largest independent ad technology player, the company is distinguished by its global reach and cosmopolitan market knowledge.