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Weekly Roundup: Antitrust Lawsuits Gain Steam, Identity in 2021, Diversifying Revenue, and More.

Adtech Weekly
New year greetings! We're starting off this year's roundup with a couple of interesting news — Google is in trouble, adtech struggles to replace cookies, and more.

Google Vs. Header Bidding

Google’s unfair practices against its competitors are slowly coming into the light amidst antitrust lawsuits. Recent findings reveal that Google incentivized Facebook to fight against header bidding.

Header Bidding helped publishers in lowering Google’s interference in the inventory auction. It was so effective that by 2016, 70% of major publishers adopted header bidding. Facebook Ad Network was another emerging problem for Google’s monopoly in ad tech. In 2018, FAN distributed $1.5 billion to publishers. Google advertising executives listed “the need to fight off the existential threat posed by header bidding and FAN” as a priority for 2017.

Facebook was a supporter of header bidding till 2017. Google approached Facebook in September 2018, and by December, Facebook announced that it’ll adopt Open Bidding (Google’s alternative to Header Bidding). Both the parties signed a contract named Jedi Blue.

The Wall Street Journal listed the benefits that Facebook received with the Jedi Blue contract:

  • Facebook pays Google a 5% to 10% transaction fee. (Google says this fee is standard.)
  • Google helps Facebook recognize mobile and web users.
  • Facebook bids to show ads to 90% of users it recognizes.
  • Facebook has 300 millisecond “timeout” to recognize users and bid. Some other participants have a shorter, 160 millisecond timeout.
  • Facebook is locked into spending $500 million annually starting in the fourth year.”

Takeaway: 

If the allegations are true, then Google clearly tried to kill the competition by collaborating with Facebook. Such practices are unhealthy for Google’s competitors as well as for publishers. The governments around the world should keep an eye on the tech giants to prevent them. 

The Antitrust Lawsuit Supports Publishers

Publishers have been complaining about Google’s monopoly for years. The antitrust probe against Google is giving a legal voice to these complaints. The Wall Street Journal reports that many publishers helped the states to build the case.

It is surprising for publishers that Google employees knew that Google doesn’t always help publishers making more money. The employees agreed that Google shouldn’t lie to publishers by wrongly positioning its ad products. One of the proofs suggests that a senior employee was even worried that the tools from Google generate suboptimal yields for publishers and, if exposed externally, Google can face negative media coverage.

During the time of Dynamic allocation, publishers complained that Google had advantages in the bidding process that allowed it to cherry-pick the inventory at favorable rates. After Google dropped dynamic allocation and brought exchanged bidding, many believe that Google’s ad server helps AdX win most of the bids. The suite will address all these issues.

AMP Vs. Header Bidding

WordPress Tavern reports that the antitrust lawsuit alleges Google used AMP to push publishers away from header bidding and it didn’t allow Javascript to work well with AMP for the same reason. Google ad server employees and AMP employees created strategies to impede header bidding. AMP exploited publishers in many ways. As per the lawsuit:

  • It allowed publishers to work only with a few partners.
  • It helped Google to peek at bids from rival exchanges by routing their bids from Google’s server.
  • AMP helped Google access the publishers’ user data because the users were loading the content from Google’s server.
  • Internal documents reveal how AMP was an inferior product to the options previously available to the publishers.
  • Google search favored AMP pages over the pages with header bidding.

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Publishers are Diversifying their Revenues

2020 brought us a drastic fall in CPMs at the beginning of the pandemic, Apple’s IDFA changes, and Google renouncing the third-party cookie. All these events made publishers realize the importance of revenue diversification. Many publishers have already started their efforts. A Digiday research suggests that 53% of the publishers have diversified their ad products in 2020.

Launching marketplaces to open new revenue streams is another new trend among the publishers. Leaf Group’s Well + Good is selling wellness items. Narcity, a local news publisher has partnered with Bonsai as its tech vendor to sell goods from local and national merchants. Forbes has started Global Properties. Her Campus Media is working on a marketplace for recruitments.

In addition, publishers are looking at how to leverage first-party data to alleviate the impact of cookieless advertising. 

For instance, Future PLC has developed its proprietary tech to collect, streamline, and scale its first-party data. It has 350 million monthly visitors on its 130 special interest sites and enthusiast publications. Enthusiast audience has higher conversion rates for the products of their interests. The publisher has run over 200 campaigns and saw 50%-70% better results with the first-party data.

Takeaway:

There are many ways to diversify your revenue. You can sell your products, recommend products from your partner, leverage data, etc. Ultimately, it’s up to publishers to prepare for the future as the cookie-based advertising is going away soon. 

Digital Identity in 2021

The ad tech industry ran after identity solutions for the entire 2020, so are we ready to replace the third-party cookie? Adexchanger tried to find the same.

Nicole Perrin, a principal analyst at eMarketer believes that the industry is looking forward to 2021. The people in the industry are anticipating more announcements of partnerships and solutions. On the other hand, Nathan Levin, CEO of Mobile UA Ltd. thinks that there’s been a lack of resource allocation for developing third-party cookie alternatives.

The development of Google’s privacy sandbox has also been slow. Google itself may face difficulty in finishing the project before it terminates the third-party cookie support with the current speed. Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, doubts Google’s intentions of pulling the plug. Bob Regula, CEO of Infolinks, believes that Google will at least, extend the deadline of the cookie update.

Ari Paparo, CEO of Beeswax, believes that the industry is paralyzed by confusing, half baked proposals from Google. Google’s vague deadlines and technical solutions have frozen the development process for the industry. He also thinks that The Trade Desk has the size-advantage over other companies for rolling out an ID solution.

Takeaway:

There is clearly a state of confusion and uncertainty around digital identity in 2021. The developments may have been slow, but ultimately we’ll have to find a solution.

Getting the Best out of Lazy Loading

Our VP of Ad Operations and Customer Success recently gave three considerations to get the best results out of lazy loading. Here are the takeaways from his post on AdExchanger:

  • Implementing lazy loading can have a much more positive impact on eCPM in your targeted geographies when comparing with non-targeted geographies.
  • Lazy loading increases viewability in non-targeted geographies to a greater extent as compared to targeted geographies.
  • Implementing lazy loading when your current viewability is already above 80%, won’t have much impact on viewability or eCPM. Lazy loading will help more when the viewability is lower.

You can read the complete article here.

Moments that Matter

FreeWheel Buys Beeswax –  AdExchanger.

In memoriam: A round-up of the media companies we lost in 2020 – Digiday.

Buyers Expect Google to Follow Apple’s Lead and Kill Support for Mobile Ad Identifiers – AdWeek.

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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