Dan Madden, CoullCoull are an ad technology company with 50 staff spread across offices in Bristol, London, and Santa Barbara in the US, with a new New York office due to open next month. Coull have an overlay network – based on IAB display ad sizes – that runs across the inventory of premium video publishers in over 180 markets globally. Here Dan Madden, VP Marketing at Coull, explains the model in more detail, the impact of overlays on the viewer experience, and Coull’s take on viewability.

Could you provide a little background into what Coull bring to the video advertising industry? 

Coull’s tech – Coull Vidlinkr – connects advertisers with premium publisher video inventory via a contextually relevant, in-video branded overlay. We call this ad unit a Vidlink.

What we bring to the video advertising industry isn’t necessarily a new format, overlays have been about for a while, but an emphasis on content-level data informing that ad unit. What differentiates a Vidlink from a standard overlay is contextual relevance. Vidlinkr categorises publisher video content at a deep level and matches ads based on relevance. Of course Vidlinks are targeted against demographics and geography, but that added layer of context we bring to the table enables brands to target more effectively and see higher brand uplift and engagement rates. For publishers, this means higher eCPMs.

 What type of advertisers are typically drawn to using Vidlinks – is it mostly brand or direct response?

We see a mix. Integrating advertising within video content is great for direct response because viewers are in discovery mode. If the ad supports the content and provides a viewer with a natural next step in their consumer journey the clickthrough rates we see are as high as 3-4%.

We also tap into branding budgets. Vidlinks are compatible with standard IAB display formats and the opportunity for brands to align themselves with relevant video content is proving compelling. The strength of in-video units compared to others is that the ad isn’t in the periphery of the user’s vision and likely to be ignored, it’s in a prime piece of real-estate, and for a considerable duration too. It’s part of the content experience and that really appeals to advertisers looking to drive brand uplift.  In terms of the type of advertisers we attract, we see a mix of brand and direct response campaigns, but a larger proportion is certainly in the brand category.

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How do you classify video content contextually?

The standard level of content categorisation usually means applying a top level tag such as Sport or Technology to a video, and that serves a purpose, but fails to capitalise on a growing need from advertisers to target inventory at a more granular level. Our focus is on taking a variety of data points about an individual video and tagging it at a much deeper, subcategory level. We can do that automatically and at scale to provide advertisers with the granular targeting they need.

 Doesn’t having an overlay interfere with the video viewing experience?

Overlays don’t act as a barrier to accessing video, but there’s no doubt that having a completely irrelevant advertising message shoved in front of you while you’re trying to watch a video is going to be distracting. Vidlinks only take up a small proportion of the video, are typically positioned in a corner of the frame, are visible for a set duration and always have a close button. Consumers only find advertising annoying when it doesn’t provide value, bringing contextual relevance to this format delivers that value.

How is the inventory sold i.e. via RTB or programmatic direct? 

Our inventory is sold on a programmatic direct basis. We deal with premium publisher content and selling via programmatic direct allows us to deliver strong eCPMs for our publishers at scale, connecting them with premium advertisers.

Viewability is a problem in both video and display, and Coull straddles both worlds. How are you approaching the problem?

Viewability is certainly a hot topic at the moment, and quite rightly as recent reports have shown a big chunk of media spend is going to waste. Our Vidlinks are only served once a viewer clicks the play button on a video, so whereas with traditional display ads an advertiser might be charged for an ad being loaded, often below the fold or out of view, and derive absolutely no value from it, we can guarantee close to 100% viewability. If a viewer clicks play, it’s highly likely they’re going to pay attention to the video.


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