The global digital advertising market is still a Wild West of the internet economy. The rapid development of technology opens up great prospects for advertisers and publishers alike. However, it also creates pitfalls. Unreliable partners, undisclosed rebates and obscure data plague market players all over the world. How to make sense of the market and find a way to better transparency and accountability? The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is the organization with a worldwide reach that develops industry standards and provides much-needed guidelines for online advertisers. Although it doesn’t regulate the relations among the market players, IAB has the authority to recommend the standards and specifications. We talked with Yaroslava Antipina, CEO at IAB Ukraine, about the current state of the market and how IAB can help to bring more clarity and integrity to the digital market.
Yaroslava, could you tell us more about IAB? What are the main goals and tasks of the organization?
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City and has an office in San Francisco. The company develops industry standards, conducts researches and provides legal support for the digital advertising industry. There are 47 IAB offices licensed to operate in countries around the world and one regional IAB, in Europe. All of them are a part of the IAB Global Network.
Why did IAB decide to open an office in Ukraine? What would you like to achieve there?
IAB Ukraine is acting under IAB license and it’s a part of IAB Global Network, as I mentioned earlier. We were granted the license on January 31, 2018, after presenting the business plan to the Head Office in the US. We were able to show the real necessity and readiness of the Ukrainian digital market to implement global IAB standards and to become more transparent and profitable. IAB Ukraine will work with IAB to achieve common goals, promote global standards and guidelines, create better ads and improve the consumer experience, advance social trust and the industry interests in the Ukrainian marketplace.
Can you tell us about the current state of digital advertising ecosystem? What are the core challenges that need to be tackled?
We all understand that Ukrainian digital market needs unique and transparent standards, the digital environment should be safe for brands and consumer experience should be improved. To achieve this, we’re working hard on implementing the industry standards, dealing with fraud and piracy, defining core qualifications that our professionals need in order to operate more effectively. We will also conduct research and publish white papers.
Is Ukrainian media market in any way different from the European, American or Asian? Are the issues similar to digital advertisers all over the world, or there are regional discrepancies?
All markets all over the world have the same issues that are important for advertisers: viewability and brand safety. When we’re talking about the European and American markets, we understand that they’re more developed. At the same time, all the tendencies that appear there we shortly see on our market as well. An example of the differences between American and Ukrainian markets is that in Ukraine, the digital audio advertising market isn’t developed. Also, we have fewer technical players because of the market size.
How do you assess the penetration of fraud in the digital advertising market?
IAB Ukraine hasn’t conducted such assessment yet. But because of much lower CPM than on the more developed markets, we can assume that penetration of fraud is not so high. Fraud systems need a lot of investment and it won’t be so easy for them to get returns in Ukraine. However, I’m not saying that there’s no fraud in the country.
How would you estimate the development of programmatic technologies?
We can talk about the development for sure. Local players, for example, Admixer is planning the launch of its system in summer; VPoint, Programmatic Media are also investing in programmatic technologies. And here are some numbers: according to Ukrainian Internet Association, in 2017, the share of programmatic buying in agencies was 10,78% and the websites’ sales through programmatic amounted to 45.4%; according to Admixer inside data, programmatic purchases in 2017 were accounted for 35% of the total budget, in 2016 they were only 5%.
Editor’s note: Clickky has already implemented programmatic technologies and operates its own SSP, DSP and RTB marketplace since 2016.
How would you assess the effect of ads.txt on the media market? Can you say that it helped to reduce the sales of counterfeit inventory?
As Google made Ads.txt mandatory and stopped buying from publishers that haven’t integrated it, this move has made a positive effect on the media market. But we should understand that Ads.txt resolves only one fraud problem: the domains spoofing. Many other issues are still to be considered.
What about video tags? Can you say that many publishers adopt IAB specifications VPAID, VPAID-I? How does it impact the digital ecosystem?
IAB Ukraine hasn’t conducted such an assessment yet, but for example, Admixer reports that 10-15% of their publishers have adopted VPAID & VPAID-I specifications. As for the impact, the tags allow increasing the number of different metrics that can be tracked by third-party verifiers. Also, VPAID allows embedding the advertisements with wow-effect into the player.
What is IAB’s take on GDPR regulations? What has been done to prepare the shift to new rules and what are the general recommendations for advertisers?
IAB Europe, with support from industry parties and technical support from IAB Tech Lab, has introduced the GDPR Transparency & Consent Framework. IAB Ukraine is planning to create a so-called checklist for all digital advertising parties. This checklist will be our recommendations of what should be done to comply with the GDPR law.
How do you see the future of digital advertising ecosystem? What would you recommend to the market players?
As we can observe now, there’s a shift to smart buying. Smart advertising includes programmatic ecosystem and data management systems as well (the last one is a part of the programmatic environment). We all understand that you cannot operate effectively now without data processing and analysis. So digital advertising will be moving towards programmatic. Yes, we still have a lot of issues to tackle. Obviously, I mean fraud. IAB Ukraine Programmatic Committee soon will publish the recommendations on how to deal with fraud and the problems we observe now. Also, we can say that digital advertising ecosystem will be expanding with other formats, such as digital radio (audio and podcast), digital out-of-home, digital TV.
What are the plans of IAB for the nearest future? What are the issues that your team will focus on?
This year IAB Ukraine Market Standards Committee is planning to implement the global IAB standards to the Ukrainian digital market, by means of recommending and promoting them. The critical issue is that IAB can offer recommendations, but cannot make the market follow them. The rules are mandatory only for our members.
For the first time ever, data about the Ukrainian digital market will be included into the IAB Europe AdEx Report. This issue is being developed by the IAB Ukraine Market Research Committee. As well as publishing the “Ecosystem of the digital market”, IAB will give definitions of viewability, how to measure it, its features and problems, etc. As I mentioned earlier, we will seriously consider the issue of fraud in programmatic. We want to be sure that brands are safe in the digital environment and we will publish our recommendations on how to protect brands. Our Performance Committee is planning to define what performance, its instruments and services are according to IAB, give recommendations to performance tenders, etc.
The principal issue for us is education. Now we’re negotiating with leading schools to establish IAB-verified courses. All our plans are published on the IAB Ukraine official website. We’re inviting market players to join IAB Ukraine and to handle the critical issues together, to make the digital environment safe, standardized and transparent.
Finally, how can companies become the members of IAB?
There’re two types of membership in IAB Ukraine: the full and associate. To become a full member, the company must be operating on the Ukrainian digital market for more than one year, have received two recommendations from the full IAB members and agree to follow the high standards of IAB Ukraine. For associate members, we’re asking to obtain two recommendations from the full members, as well as to grant the consent to follow IAB standards.