The WIR: Ads.txt Fraud Scheme Steals $15 Million in Video Ads, The Trade Desk Doubles its CTV Revenues, and the HbbTV Association Launches its Targeted Advertising Spec

In this week’s Week in Review: IAS uncovers a new domain spoofing scheme which exploits ads.txt, The Trade Desk doubles its CTV revenues year-on-year, and the HbbTV association releases its spec for targeted advertising on HbbTV TV sets and set-top boxes. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

New Ads.txt Fraud Scheme Cost Video Advertisers $15 Million
Integral Ad Science’s Threat Lab this week uncovered a fraud scheme which exploited ads.txt, an industry effort to combat ad fraud, which has cost video advertisers around $15 million in wasted spend. The ‘404bot’ as it has been dubbed works through domain spoofing – impersonating established publishers’ domains in order to steal ad spend intended for those sites. Ads.txt is designed to stamp out domain spoofing by allowing publishers to list which companies are authorised to sell their inventory. But the 404bot, which has run since 2018, exploited the fact that some haven’t been consistently auditing and updating their ads.txt files – with the publishers targeted by the scheme tending to have very long ads.txt lists.

“Publishers have done an excellent job in implementing Ads.txt but what we are learning from this bot is that it is crucial to continuously audit and update Ads.txt files,” said Evgeny Shmelkov, head of the IAS Threat Lab.

The Trade Desk’s CTV Revenue Doubles Year-on-Year
Demand-side platform The Trade Desk beat analyst expectations in its Q4 results released on Thursday, with revenues up 35 percent year-on-year, reaching $215.9 million. Gross spend on the platform meanwhile was up 33 percent for the full year, reaching $3.1 billion. Video in particular was a key driver of revenue growth for The Trade Desk, with total video revenues up 54 percent year-on-year in Q4, and connected-TV (CTV) spend up 100 percent.

CEO Jeff Green outlined the company’s priorities for the year ahead. “We exited 2019 on a strong note and are seeing that momentum continue into 2020. Our focus is on grabbing market share and deepening our engagement and strategic importance with our customers,” he said. “In the coming year, we will continue to make aggressive investments in high-growth areas such as Connected TV, data, and global expansion.”

HbbTV Association Releases Targeted Ad Spec
The HbbTV Association, a global body which creates standards and specifications for hybrid broadcast-broadband TV (HbbTV) this week released its specification for targeted advertising on HbbTV-enabled TV sets and set-top boxes. Several European broadcasters have used HbbTV to develop addressable TV advertising solutions, with German broadcaster ProsiebenSat.1 one of the most prominent to do so. But the HbbTV said its standard will help speed up the development of addressable solutions, allowing more broadcasters to target different groups of households with different ads during commercial breaks in linear broadcasts.

“HbbTV-TA is the first open standard dedicated to targeted advertising in live broadcast TV, and it has a huge potential of adoption in Europe as the market is currently highly fragmented with several proprietary solutions,” said Vincent Grivet, chair of the HbbTV Association. “The development of the specification follows requests by broadcasters, once again confirming the close alignment of HbbTV with market requirements and business needs.”

The Week in Tech

Rubicon Video Revenues Grow 43 Percent Prior to Telaria Merger
Rubicon Project reported this week that Q4 revenues were up 17 percent year-on-year to $48.5 million. Video revenues specifically meanwhile grew 43 percent across the whole year, reaching $28.6 million for 2019. The results come as Rubicon Project prepares to close a merger with CTV specialist Telaria. “We’re excited about the go-to-market opportunity ahead of us when we close the pending merger with Telaria to better serve sellers and fill buyer demand in the growing area of CTV and web video,” said Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett. “On a combined basis, CTV and web video will approach half of our total revenue.”

LiveRamp, Beeswax and Beachfront Collaborate for Privacy-First Targeted CTV Advertising
Demand-side platform (DSP) Beeswax and video ad management platform Beachfront announced on Tuesday that they have both adopted LiveRamp’s ‘IdentityLink’ identifier for connected-TV advertising, a move which the two say will allow buyer to use their first-party data for CTV ad targeting in a privacy compliant manner. Beachfront and Beeswax are the first to use IdentityLink within CTV environments, and advertisers buying through Beeswax will also be able to use IdentityLink for display and mobile campaigns too. Read the full story on VAN.

Google Touts Improved Frequency Management in Programmatic Guaranteed Deals
Google this week announced it has improved its frequency management tools for Programmatic Guaranteed deals within Display and Video 360. “Once your overall campaign frequency goal has been reached for a user, whether via open auction, Programmatic Guaranteed, or a combination of the two, Display & Video 360 will attempt to stop showing more ads to that user from your Programmatic Guaranteed deals while still prioritising and ensuring that they deliver the agreed number of impressions,” explains DV360 product manager Zinnia Zheng in a blog post. “This will further reduce overexposure, resulting in an even better experience for users and less waste for advertisers.”

DV360 DiagramCTV Impressions Tripled in Two Years Finds Extreme Reach
CTV impressions have more than tripled as a proportion of total video ads served over the past two years according to research from asset management solution Extreme Reach. ER’s data found that 49 percent of all video ad impressions were served to CTV platforms last year, up from 16 percent in 2017. “It’s amazing that, just two years ago, digital video advertising was all about mobile. Quarter by quarter, we’ve seen the paradigm shift to a new, CTV-centric reality,” said Mary Vestewig, ER’s senior director, video account management. “We expect to see fewer wild swings from quarter to quarter for the next year, but we do expect to see interesting trends driven by the growing number of AVOD players and the impact they have on the available inventory mix.”

TeraVolt Brings More US Content to HbbTV Libraries
TeraVolt announced this week it has developed a new solution which allows DRM-protected content to be included and searched for within HbbTV content libraries. Broadcasters previously either had to design a specific HbbTV app tailored to DRM, or they had to exclude content with DRM protection, which excluded a lot of US content.

The Week in TV

Comcast Acquires Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV Service XUMO
US telco Comcast has announced a deal to buy free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service XUMO for an undisclosed fee. Comcast says XUMO will continue to operate as an independent business inside of Comcast Cable. The move comes at a time of increased interest in ad-supported streaming, as the subscription video on-demand (SVOD) market becomes increasingly saturated. Meanwhile, Fox is rumoured to be eyeing up XUMO competitor Tubi, and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is reported to be considering a bid for Walmart-owned video rental and streaming service Vudu. Read the full story on VAN.

The Streaming Wars Could Put PSB’s Funding Models Under Threat says Ofcom
UK public-service broadcasters (PSBs) have become increasingly reliant in third-party funding for content production in recent years says UK communications regulator Ofcom, signing up for joint productions, often with the big subscription video on-demand platforms. This funding model has helped make up for declining revenues elsewhere, but has been primarily focused on genres which help drive subscriptions to those SVOD services. And this funding model could come under threat as the streaming wars ramp up, with the SVOD services focussing more on their own productions in favour of joint productions with other media companies. Read the full story on VAN.

Disney Chief Bob Iger Abruptly Steps Down
With little warning, Disney chief executive announced on Tuesday this week that he has stepped down from his role with immediate effect. He will however carry on as executive chairman until his contract runs out in 2021. Iger, who took the top job in 2005, is credited with leading much of Disney’s transformation over the past decade and a half. Iger oversaw Disney’s acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm and 21st Century Fox, as well as the recent launch of subscription video on-demand service Disney+. His step back wasn’t completely unexpected – Iger had previously announced plans to retire, which had been pushed back.

Iger has been replaced by Bob Chapek, previously Parks, Experiences and Products chairman.

NBCUniversal Unveils New Tools for One Platform
NBCUniversal this week shared updates to its One Platform set of buying tools, which Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships at NBCU, described as “the first singular platform that will allow marketers to transact with us in a unified, technically sophisticated, data-driven way -that actually reflects the consumer behaviour and experience”. NBCU says advertisers will be able to transact in four ways across NBCU properties – based on broad reach audiences, based on demo-targeted audiences (using Nielsen gender and age demographics and AdSmart tech), based on advanced targeted audiences (again, using AdSmart tech), and based on sponsorship and live events.

The Week in Publishing

Minute Media Raises $40 Million, Pushing Valuation Over $500 Million
Minute Media, a digital-first publisher which owns titles including The Players’ Tribune and 90min, this week announced it has raised $40 million in a fundraising round led by Dawn Capital. This brings total funding up to $160 million, and the company’s total valuation above $500 million according to Axios. Minute Media says the funds will be used for further investment in The Players’ Tribune, for further acquisitions, and to improve its publishing tech platform.

The Sun Posts £68 Million Loss
News UK-owned newspaper The Sun reported a £68 million loss this week, as sales slowed down and its parent company News Group Newspapers (a division within News UK) continues to pay off the cost of phone hacking claims against News of the World (which was also owned by News Group Newspapers). The Sun remains the UK’s best-selling paper, but daily sales were down in the 12 months ending July last year. The Sun said visits to its web property were up, with 32.8 million UK adults visiting the site each month, up 3.6 million from the year before,. Further boosting the popularity of the website is a priority for the company as it aims to compete with MailOnline.

Reddit Launches First Brand Campaign with R/GA
Social news platform Reddit has selected R/GA as its first agency of record, as it prepares to launch its first brand campaign. R/GA will work with Reddit’s in-house team OrangeRed for the campaign, which aims to showcase Reddit to new users and “shine a spotlight on the power of its 100,000+ active communities”. “Over the past 14 years, Reddit has been really fortunate with strong and mostly organic growth, so we’re excited to take a more proactive approach to brand marketing for the first time in Reddit’s history,” said Reddit VP of marketing, Roxy Young. “I can think of no better way of doing this than by showing the breadth and diversity of our communities and how Reddit helps people better understand the world.”

The Week for Agencies

WPP Shares Drop 19 Percent after Q4 Slowdown
Holding group WPP’s share price is down nearly twenty percent since the company reported its Q4 results on Thursday. Like-for-like revenues minus pass-through costs were down 1.6 percent for the whole year to £10.8 billion, and down 1.9 percent for Q4. Profits before tax meanwhile were down 21.9 percent for the full year. WPP expects slow conditions for the year ahead too, forecasting flat revenue less pass-through costs in 2020, and flat headline operating profit margin. CEO Mark Read said he nonetheless remains optimistic as the company progresses through the second year of its three year turnaround plan. “With our market-leading scale and global footprint, allied to the creativity of our agencies and our technology leadership, we are confident of further progress against our 2021 targets,” he said. But investors are concerned about the potential impacts of coronavirus on the world economy, and the impact that would have on WPP.

OMD UK and Dentsu Japan Send Staff Home Amid Coronavirus Fears
OMD UK and Dentsu Japan both asked staff to work from home this week due to fears over the spread of coronavirus. OMD UK said the move was a precautionary measure after a staff member who had passed through Singapore began showing flu-like symptoms. Meanwhile Dentsu in Japan said a staff member in their 50s had been confirmed to have contracted the virus, and asked staff in its Tokyo headquarters to work from home.

ISBA Launches New Initiative to Improve Public’s Experience of Advertising
British advertisers’ trade group ISBA this launched a new ‘advertising experience MOT’ for brands, in a move designed to improve the public’s experience of advertising. The MOT is designed in response to ‘Improving The Public’s Advertising Experience’, a new paper launched by the industry’s Trust Working Group. The paper, launched at ISBA’s annual event, recommends that advertisers follow five steps to counter increasingly negative public sentiment towards ads:

  1. Make your advertising welcome in people’s lives
  2. Place business effectiveness above efficiency
  3. Achieve full visibility of where your advertising goes
  4. Ensure every impact and exposure matters
  5. Deploy the necessary resources to track, measure and manage this programme.

ISBA says its MOT will be available to all advertisers, and will be an independently verified test of a company’s/brand’s approach to safeguarding the consumer, avoiding advertising bombardment and wasted investment.

Hires of the Week

Disney Chooses Kelly Campbell as Hulu President
Disney has chosen Kelly Campbell, previously Hulu’s chief marketing officer, to run the streaming unit. Campbell will take the role of president, effectively replacing CEO Randy Freer.

Demet İkiler Becomes GroupM EMEA CEO
Demet İkiler has been chosen as GroupM’s new CEO for the EMEA region effective immediately, the company announced this week. İkiler, who will serve on GroupM’s Global Executive Committee, will lead GroupM’s operations in the region while remaining WPP Country Manager in Turkey, a role she took on in 2013.

Peach Hires Ben Regensburger as CEO
Video ad platform Peach this week announced the appointment of Ben Regensburger, MD at ProSieben Sat.1 subsidiary SevenOne Media, as CEO. Peach says Regensburger will use his extensive experience across digital and linear video to continue accelerating Peach’s offer, bringing new benefits to advertisers’ and agencies’ video campaigns.

Robert Webster joins InfoSum as Director, Strategy Consulting
InfoSum this week announced that industry veteran, Robert Webster, has joined the company as director, strategy consulting. In this new commercial role, InfoSum says Webster will bring his vast amount of experience to help the business onboard new enterprise clients and solve complex challenges around the use of data, identity, privacy and consent.

Teads Promotes Jamie Toward to Head of Data, UK and Netherlands
Teads this week announced that Jamie Toward, currently industry director at the company, has been promoted effective immediately to head of data, UK and Netherlands. Toward first joined Teads in January 2018 and specialises in combining data, technology and creativity on behalf of clients to deliver effective marketing solutions, according to the company.

This Week on VAN

Analysts Are Still Spilt on Quibi Two Months from Launch, read more on VAN

LiveRamp, Beeswax and Beachfront Collaborate for Privacy-First Targeted CTV Advertising, read more on VAN

Comcast Acquires Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV Service XUMO, read more on VAN

The Streaming Wars Could Put PSB’s Funding Models Under Threat says Ofcom, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Century 21, Abandonment, MullenLowe

Subscribe to Weekly VAN Newsletter