Ad Ops Data Ninjas
I know! Not all beacons/pixels/cookies (oh my!) are used to bilk dollars from Premium Publishers via an audience driven model. There are analytics tools that can help provide insight into traffic patterns, measurement of user frequency and in the end make a greater and more enjoyable user experience for the visitor. It is hard for a Publisher to know whether to implement pixels from 4th parties on their site or not. Everyone is trying to measure the risk against the gain.
Having control over scripts, pixels and beacons on your pages is not only a Publishers duty to their readers, but a step forward in maximizing revenue. A publisher accepting that they may have given out too many keys to their kingdom is something that must be acknowledged. While some keys are worth giving, knowing who to give them to is the key question at hand (tick tock). So what is a Publisher to do?
Look to Ops, of course!
Here are some tools that can be used to collect data on your site (or the web) and determine exactly what is going on that may not have been negotiated with a vendor. These are called Contracts by Proxy (CBP). CBPs are between publishers and vendors with whom the Publisher has no actual agreement with or an agreement for only parts of the activity conducted by a contracted vendor. Since the decline of the Networks, we see a new horizon for data leakage through Premium channels. Here are some tools that AdOps and Data Concerned Publishers can use to see what they are really trafficking into the Almighty Ad Server. (Notice the post page load server calls.)
FireBug : An extension for FireFox that allows inspection of activity on the currently viewed page. ~I usually find myself keeping the NET window active while browsing and when I see to a call to a UFS (Unidentified Firing Script), then it is right to the HTML tab to see how the calls got to them.
Fiddler : A Web Debugger that logs HTTP(S) activity between your computer and the browser (IE or there is an extension for FF). Here inspection of scripts and server activity can be revealed by decoding the actual files called by the servers and then look at the variables and referral information being passed over to them.
FireCookie : An extension to FireBug that allows for you to see the cookies dropped or changed on a single page load. Just because their server is not called does not mean their cookie was not dropped.
FlashCookieView (nirsoft.com) : Can you really understand the Adobe portal for Flash Cookies on your computer? Here is a simple way to view and delete. Who do you want reaching your audience off site even when their HTML cookies have been deleted?
So, why ad ops? When a pixel goes on your page, your ad server is your “container.” When Biz Dev, Research and Analytics, Marketing or Ad Serving deals are made that require code implementation, trafficking the scripts through your ad server allows for control and if needed, removal from the site rather than hard coding. These traffic requests should follow the standard Q/A that happens in AdOps every day.
1. Script submitted. 2. Script analyzed for acceptability. 3. Script passes testing or fails.
By adding a new layer to the creative testing process, AdOps can point out Verification, Analytics, Segmentation, DSP or other activity passing through the advertising sales process. The monitoring of additional ad server calls can give measure to who you are actually doing business with. Perhaps this could go in conjunction with the capture of the “We are Live” screenshot process? Publishers have no control on what goes through an ad tag once it is live and sometimes a creative swap can mean that “we added code/pixels, is it still loading the ad?”
For Premium executions, the data that makes it a premium buy in the first place must be protected. Everyone wants to move more dollars online, but doing so by way of audience driven data is not the key here for Publishers with a strong brand. Protect your reach and protect your users.
The bottom line is there's more competition for audience on the buy side than on the sell side. Understanding the value for an advertiser to reach your audience and preventing the back door channels from doing so is gold. Publishers produce content to attract an audience that expects the best, so Publishers need to protect that best audience for reach through direct sales channels. Understanding the activity on one’s domain is just the first step. Then reasonable policies around data collection, cookie dropping and segmentation that may cannibalize an audience can be made to protect the Publisher’s most valuable asset.
While Publishers are trying to make sense of this fragmented landscape, they must ask themselves "Why are the Buy Side players making all the maps?"