Vindico President Matt Timothy Explains Why His Company Chose to Make Viewability and Fraud Tech Free for Publishers

Matt Timothy, VindicoIn theory, improved viewability and fraud detection should benefit publsihers with high quality inventory and human traffic. However, thus far most of these tools have been aimed mainly at the buy-side or have been perceived by publishers as being too expensive — after all, if you’re running an honest business, why should you have to pay yet another tech vendor to prove it? One company trying to solve that problem is Vindico, who recently made Adtricity, their viewability and bot detection product, available for free for publishers. Here Vindico President Matt Timothy explains Adtricity’s motives for doing so and discusses the wider industry’s progress on fraud and viewability.

Vindico recently announced that you’re making the Adtricity viewability product free for publishers. Could you explain what it will allow publishers to do and why you’re allowing them to use it for free?

Adtricity was rolled out for advertisers who utilized Vindico’s Ad Management platform in May 2013 and began measuring the quality of the video ad impressions that publishers, networks, and exchanges were selling to our clients.  The buy side was given the data and insight to transact in a more granular way that they had never had previously, and began using viewability, verification, and our bot detection scores to optimize the vendors that they were working with. This led to the development of a new type of currency in the video marketplace focused around quality.  Vindico’s mission has always been to serve our ad serving customers by measuring their digital media investments and help them transact with media vendors they have chosen to work with.

In May 2014, we launched Adtricity for Publishers to help publishers, networks, and exchanges measure the quality of inventory from a specific location or publisher they were working with, so they could better optimize their own ad inventory and improve the quality they delivered to Vindico served advertisers who were evaluating the inventory using Adtricity ratings.  This was a significant step forward as it delivered to publishers granular reporting of their own inventory at the page level, but it didn’t solve the industry problem in its entirety.

Today we are giving publishers the ability to rate their inventory at the ‘impression level’ and pass the Adtricity certified grade through the ad calls and into the networks/exchanges so the buyers can know the ad quality prior to purchasing the ad impression on an RTB basis.  This is game changing for all players in our ecosystem. It finally solves the problem for the real-time ecosystem that exchanges, networks and publishers participate in today’s world.  Grading each impression prior to its purchase, based on 25 data points that create the quality rating, gives a level of transparency the sell side has not had to date from any company offering a competitive solution. We decided to remove the last friction point in the marketplace for sellers and made the cost to use the system free for all so that it could be used for both Vindico and non-Vindico served campaigns.

We are allowing the sell side to utilize this system for free for two main reasons.  First and foremost, we believe the impression level solution we are offering has the ability to solve the industry’s largest problem for future growth and can grow the digital video budgets even faster if we separate high quality from low quality for buyers and sellers.  Second, the size and scope of Vindico’s platform represents over one third of the entire online video industry and a recent poll of our customers showed that 83 percent are now requiring a minimum viewability threshold moving forward.  Further to that statistic, 38 percent now want to move to real-time blocking at the ad server level based on the ratings.  This time last year both of those numbers were zero.  With our customers’ attitudes towards this issue shifting so quickly we see this as an opportunity to step up and help both sides transact around this new and emerging metric of quality without either side getting hurt.

It seems like many vendors are now working with companies providing viewability and fraud detection services. Is it having an impact?  Are you seeing less fraud and improved viewability?

Absolutely.  The key to improving these metrics is continuing to provide more granular data to the buy side and the sell side which we have continued to do.  With the launch of Adtricity for Advertisers we saw huge improvements from when we first began measuring the metrics as agencies began optimizing budgets away from vendors with significantly low quality ratings.  The sharing and continued education that we have done for vendors around the Adtricity quality ratings has led to huge improvements in many of their scores.  Adtricity for Publishers helped the sell side improve their scores even further by giving them granularity into their own unique inventory sources so they could optimize themselves from low quality inventory.  With the combination of impression level data available pre-bid and the page level reporting after the purchase for both sides, we think this fills one of the final needs in the marketplace around the RTB ecosystem.

How close are we to being able to eliminate bot fraud for once and for all?  Is that even possible?

The issue, that is the industry’s issue, is that of quality.  Quality means that you need to solve for low viewability, lack of verification, bot detection, and over 20 other data points that holistically determine whether an ad is of a quality that the buyers are expecting.  Specifically, eliminating bots is happening at a rapid clip already and Vindico is one of the most well-placed companies to do this given that we serve so many ads on behalf of our advertisers and have visibility into the bots that are generating huge volumes of inventory.

Are there any particular parts of the ecosystem who could be doing significantly more to tackle fraud and viewability than they currently are?

Everything in the advertising industry has to start on the buy side first and work its way through the ecosystem from there.  Today if you look at the marketplace as a whole, the one area that has not been able to have a technology platform better understand the quality of inventory, is the RTB and exchange ecosystem.  This is not for lack of want to solve the problem. However, all of the viewability and bot detection vendors only offer these companies a report after the fact that showed some ads were in view and some were out of view and another chunk were bots.  What they need is an impression level technology solution that we are offering today to help them decipher which ads to purchase and which to not.  Now that the tools are available I would expect the quality of inventory from this channel to drastically improve for the companies who implement it.

Bot fraud tends to get blamed on mysterious ‘bad actors’ in Russia and China. Do you get any insight into where the bots are created, and if you do, would it be fair to say that many of them also originate in the US and Europe?

When looking at bots, it is impossible to ever really know who the individuals are and where they are from.  The only piece of information that you can really know are the individual computers that are infected and are being controlled by that person to generate ad inventory.  What is important to have is a sophisticated bot detection technology platform that has a deep and vast footprint in the industry that can detect and reject the impressions coming from those infected machines.

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