What’s the New Policy Change from Google Ad Manager?
Google has made a series of sweeping announcements in the last few months. From moving to unified first-price auction to phasing out the support for third-party cookies, publishers have to keep up with a lot of updates. Last week, Google quietly made a policy change to its Ad Manager and it raised a few questions.
New policy change from Google…we have until May to make sure we aren’t prioritizing HB line items. In case you like to run your PMPs in anything outside of G. If that ain’t anticompetitive, I don’t know what is. https://t.co/Rsh5eKq6GY
— Stephanie Layser (@slayser8) February 5, 2020
What’s the update?
First off, Google clarified that the update only affects 1% of the GAM publishers who use line items for “unintended” purposes. For instance, some publishers put Google AdSense or Google AdX demand in the house line item, which, in turn, allows them to bypass unified pricing rules. And, reportedly this set up forces Google AdX demand to pay a higher price and improve yield.
With the new unified pricing rules, Google restricted publishers from setting different price floor prices for different demand partners and buyers. So, publishers were tweaking the setup to optimize the yield.
“The reason publishers do these things is because Google takes control out of the publishers hands, making decisions that benefit Google and not publishers.”
– Stephanie Layser, VP of advertising technology at News Corp (AdExchanger).
The current update prevents publishers from using house line items for any demand other than the publisher’s own. In addition, Google will treat remnant line items (Price priority, Bulk, and Network line items) as House line items if they aren’t competing on price in the unified auction.
“We are updating our System Limits and Maximums requirements to reflect the uses that each line item type has been specifically designed for. These requirements ensure that all equivalent demand sources are treated the same and that Google’s ability to make changes that benefit all publishers is maintained.”
As expected, publishers are concerned with the changes for two primary reasons. One, Google implementing restrictions without prior communication or dialogue may affect the bottom lines of several publishers. Two, Google seems to take away control from the publishers in the name of “fair auction”.
“They want everyone on an ‘even playing field’ when they’ve been giving themselves the upper hand since the acquisition of DoubleClick”
– Stephanie Layser.
CCPA: What is a Sale?
California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is no close to clear the ambiguities for publishers as the law hasn’t yet clearly stated whether the sharing of data with third parties (for the purpose of targeted ads) would be considered as a “sale” or not.
And, these ambiguities have caused the publishers to miss out on the revenue opportunities as the advertisers are avoiding to work with the non-compliant publishers.
“Better safe than sorry.”
– Ad agency executive.
Many publishers have taken appropriate steps to make themselves a CCPA compliant partner and updated their privacy policies accordingly. But some of them implemented strict messages (opt-outs) leading to a huge drop in the ad revenue.
Infolinks, an ad network working with more than 25,000 publishers, noticed a 44% drop in the average ad price whenever there’s an opt-out of the sale of the PII (Personal Identifiable Information).
CCPA made it mandatory for a publisher to give the California users a choice to “opt-out” from accessing and selling their personal data. Despite the fact, there are some publishers such as Ziff Davis LLC who hasn’t clearly offered an “opt-out” on their homepage.
“If a company has stated that it may sell California residents’ personal information but has not placed an opt-out link on its homepage, then that is going to be problematic because they’re supposed to have it.”
– Aaron Tantleff, A Partner at Law Firm Foley & Lardner.
It’s been a month since CCPA rolled out, but it seems the advertising industry will take a bit more time to understand the privacy law. Meanwhile, publishers can sign on Limited Service Providers Agreement introduced by IAB to ensure their advertising partners that they comply with the CCPA regulations.
Chrome to Block “Annoying” Video Ads
In an ideal situation, ads should work as a win-win solution for all the parties involved on the internet. Publishers should get revenue from them, the internet users should become aware of the products or services which can make their life better, and the advertisers should be able to sell their products and services and earn a profit through them.
But some publishers end up putting ads in the wrong ways that end up spoiling the user experience. As a countermeasure, the users start blocking the ads on all the websites which he visits (through ad-blocking software), and all the publishers start losing money due to the mistakes done by a few publishers.
So what is the solution you may ask? Well ironically, for a long time, the solution has been blocking the ads proactively.
The Coalition for Better Ads, which is a coalition between almost all the market leaders in the ad tech industry, studies the user experience with various kinds of ads. The ad experiences that annoy the users and drive them to install adblocking software and applications are found out. The rest of the industry uses the research and implement its findings to maintain better user experience.
Recently, the Coalition for Better Ads declared three more ads experiences which fall below the set standards. All three experiences apply to video content that is less than 8 minutes long. In a nutshell:
- Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and that cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds, are bad.
- Mid-roll ads of any duration that appear in the middle of a video, interrupting the user’s experience, are bad.
- And, Image or text ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle 1/3 of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the video content, are bad.
Google will soon make sure that the standards are being followed on YouTube. At the same time, it will push its partner publishers to follow the suit on their websites.
After August 5, 2020, if your site is not following the standards, then Chrome will stop showing all the ads on your site. Till August 5, you should check your website for any violation of the standards. You can take the help of the ad experience report to check whether you are failing the standards. If you find any violations, then you should make corrections as soon as possible.
Mobile Ad Blocking on the Rise
There is no doubt that the following is beneficial for the whole industry, but it is not a perfect solution. We can confirm it by seeing the current trends in ad-blocking. Since 2016, there has been a 64% rise in the number of people blocking ads on their phones. From 1% in 2016 to 3% in 2019, ad-blocking is set to affect 6% of the total traffic in 2022.
Although there has been a decline of 16% in desktop ad-blocking it can be attributed to the lesser number of people using desktops for browsing. To add up to the problem, the new mobile browsers like Brave, are offering ad-blocking as their USP. In a market like the US, where 70% of ad spend goes to mobile, it is not difficult to imagine the impact of the situation.
To mitigate the losses, 49 of the top 100 Comscore publishers are following the Acceptable Ads. The publishers who follow the Acceptable Ads formats have to pay a cut to Eyeo GmbH, the company that blocks the most number of ads worldwide with its extension called Ad Block Plus.
Some people may argue that this is pure extortion going on from the side of companies like Eyeo GmbH because they first start blocking the ads on the publisher’s property and later ask for money to unblock them, but we do not want to make any comments on that.
The current state of the ad-blocking situation is messed up. There is a huge conflict of interest as there are parties that earn from showing ads and then there are parties that earn by blocking them. A perfect solution to avoid ad-blocking has never been found and it won’t be found in the near future as well. As publishers, all we can do is to maintain the user experience (especially on mobile) and never let the users feel the need for ad-blockers.
Moments that matter
clean.io SMART Report — Q4 2019 – Clean.io.
With a new sponsorship deal, BuzzFeed hopes a new attribution model can power commerce growth – Digiday.
In the absence of third-party cookies, publishers are building walled gardens of their own – Digiday.
Jounce: Duplicate Auctions Still on the Rise – AdMonsters.