Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Behind The Curtain: The Adtech Truth – Let’s put our ads on a diet

By Chloe Grutchfield, Co-Founder, RedBud

Behind the Curtain is a monthly column from Redbud, digging deep each month to discover what’s really going on buried deep in the adtech layers around publishers’ sites.

I’ve seen so many memes over the last few weeks about how the lockdown will result in people getting fitter, healthier, more ‘zen’, or in complete contrast, growing fatter, drinking more, and becoming less motivated.

Quite frankly, my thought on this is “Who on earth is getting fitter?!” Copious amounts of wine and/or chocolate have become a necessity for everyone, no? Yet, a lot of our publishers’ websites are actually getting fitter and healthier because, well, there are fewer ads running.

Can we help them stay fit post lockdown? Agencies, advertisers, this column is for you.

Publishers are keeping us informed, bringing us entertainment, providing us with exercise tips, supporting homeschooling parents, developing us into better cooks, and joining us as we dream of a world post lockdown. Unfortunately that surge in content hasn’t gone hand in hand with increased revenue: advertising budget freezes and keyword blocking horror stories are part and parcel of the pandemic, along with failed Joe Wicks workouts and botched sourdough loaves.

Some of our clients across industries that are severely impacted by the virus – travel and auto in particular – have seen their fill rates go down by up to 80%.

There is a silver lining though. A huge experiment is taking place; an experiment to quantify the impact of the adtech latency tax on website performance. Guess what. The impact is significant!

Our clients’ websites, unlike a lot of us, are becoming “fitter” than ever. A non-news publisher client of ours has seen their fill rate drop considerably: far fewer ads running with house ads filling most of their ad space. Those house ads aren’t “shitty” banners: they are actually better than most ads you see running. But, they lack a lot of the 3rd party tracking, brand safety scripts and other adtech add-ons that contribute to website latency.

The speed score (one of Google’s Pagespeed Insights score) of this particular client increased by a striking 56% from the end of February to the end of April. 56%! That is a big deal. Why? Well, Google’s speed score will impact the publisher’s search engine ranking;  better speed score essentially means more page views and therefore more revenue.

As ad-related content as a whole is declining, we’re seeing improvements across most of our clients websites. You may think that news websites aren’t impacted? They are. We’ve spoken to a few of our news publishers, and their unsold  impressions have increased by between 15 and 20% and speed score improved by around 30% between March and May.

Let’s give back to our beloved publishers who are making this lockdown bearable. Let’s take those learnings further and rethink our tags.

Calling all vendors! Now is the time to revisit the volume of 3rd party redirects you trigger.

Calling all agencies and advertisers! Now is the time to rethink how you build creatives.

Here’s two things we’d love you to consider from now on to help build a more sustainable ad-funded web:

  • Put your creatives on a diet: At RedBud, we have an internal wall of shame with all the 25MB+ video ads that we see across premium publishers. Some very large advertisers repurposing TV ads for the web or using high resolution images. We’ve been reluctant to name and shame so far, but I have a very itchy desire to start opening the floodgates. Work with your creative teams and providers to optimise your creative sizes to the device or connection type of the user. Read about adaptive bitrate streaming.
  • Be more ‘Coco Chanel’ than ‘Iris Apfel’: before launching your campaign, think. Do you really need all this tracking and verification? Remember where you’re advertising: if the environment is premium, do you honestly need so much verification? Take one item off, like Coco.

In short; whilst us mortal humans crack open the bubbles, fill the cupboard with carbs and chuck another failed sourdough loaf in the bin, let’s help our publisher community win the weight-watchers battle. Keep safe, stay sane and put you advertising on a diet.