Weekly News Roundup: Revamping Units for Better Ad Standards, Google Taps Into Rubicon PMPs, Who Wins in a First-Price Auction

Rebooting Ad Units to Meet Better Ads Standards

Google wants (and intends, starting in 2018) to block intrusive ads from the Chrome browser, and it wants to tell you what counts as “intrusive.” Ever since Google made the announcement about which types of ad experiences should expect to be blocked, folks have been murmuring about how wide-ranging the effects could be… and how it sounded like Google’s threatening the core play behind some niche ad tech companies out there. Annnnnnnd that’s happening now. Mike Shields at Business Insider tells us about how Parsec—a company that’s made its name in part by championing a cost-per-second model—has to change one of its popular mobile ad units entirely. The user would have to manually swipe the ad away on the screen to get back to their content. Parsec says that offers the opportunity to put some engaging ad creative in front of the user. Google says that’s a full-screen scrollover, and it’s going to get blocked. Parsec had to re-do the unit’s functionality in order to comply with Google’s standards. Google has said they decided what’s intrusive or not based on studies by the Coalition for Better Ads. So who’s the Coalition for Better Ads, is the question? Is it Google, or is it not Google? It would be helpful to know more about Google’s involvement, because it kind of has a stake in the outcome of this ad unit culling.

Google Taps Into Rubicon’s PMP Inventory to Reduce Buy-Side Friction

Google and Rubicon Project have a new deal for buyers: Advertisers can access inventory from Rubicon’s PMPs through Google DoubleClick Bid Manager. Rubicon had released an API to allow these kinds of transactions through a partner’s dashboard, instead of necessarily doing it through the Rubicon UI. Google is the first major partner to jump on board with that API. As The Drum reports, this move should ideally reduce friction for buy-side entities and streamline the process of finding and buying the inventory they want. Sounds like Rubicon is getting ahead of the ball here, after famously dropping it where header bidding is concerned—The Drum’s Ronan Shields cites an earlier conversation with Rubicon CEO Michael Barrett, who had predicted header would eventually reach a point where buyers felt they didn’t need to log into every platform. Overall, it seems to indicate the programmatic demand landscape is restructuring to eliminate waste. We’ll see how Rubicon’s move works.

Who Really Wins in a First-Price Auction? It’s Complicated

Simon Harris from Dentsu Aegis Network published a LinkedIn post arguing that second-price auctions are generally good for advertisers and a move toward first-price auctions would be bad news for them. He continued that first-price auctions are good for publishers, and good for ad exchanges: Exchanges want to be more profitable, and if the buyer pays more, the exchange will get a higher percentage fee. (All this as exchanges are being pressed to reduce their take rates.) My colleague Gavin Dunaway agreed with one of Harris’s points a little while ago: The second-price auction is a caveat to the buyer, because the buyer can only bid once and can’t see how everyone else is bidding. AppNexus’s Brian O’Kelley chimed in in the comments, saying that second-price auctions are actually desirable for the sell side… if they were true second-price auctions. The problem, he said, is that it’s easy to modify auctions by messing with floors and other tricks. AppNexus, he said, saw that prices were lower and publisher CPMs where somehow higher in a first-price auction.

Publisher Traffic Drops When Facebook Tries Pushing News Stories to “Explore” Tab

Evidently Facebook is testing out—though not in the U.S. yet—a feature where news stories posted by publishers would land on a user’s “Explore” page rather than the news feed. Quartz reports their staffers went to their own Explore pages (you should too! It’s a hoot, or a horror, or both) and were shocked (SHOCKED!) and the web of clickbait Facebook’s recommended-content algorithm had flung at them. Publishers in Slovakia, one of the six countries where Facebook has been pushing news to Explore, saw a massive dropoff in traffic versus when news went straight to the user’s main feed. Facebook says they have no plans to make a similar change in other countries, but in the interim, it’s pretty harsh for publishers in those six countries that rely on social for traffic. You have to wonder whether Facebook is trying to pressure publishers into signing on with its recently-announced subscription model…