4 Reasons Why Facebook’s New Branded Content Guidelines Are No Reason To Freak Out

Early this year, Facebook updated their branded content rules that limit the way a Facebook page owner can post content in exchange for money. This paid-promotion strategy was pivotal to the growth of companies like Render Media, Little Things and Diply. As a result of the change, Render Media and Little Things completely shut down, sending ripples through the industry. Now 3rd party advertisers like agencies, brands and publishers are scrambling for new avenues to promote products and content. We believe the reaction to this change is completely overblown with artificial media hype. Here’s why.

1. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you will lose.

Many publishers, most notoriously Render Media and Little things, built massive businesses promoting their content by paying Facebook page influencers. The strategy was successful because the cost of acquisition was sometimes as low as a penny, cheaper than Facebook’s floor. When the change occurred, Little Things, a business with over 50 employees, lost 75% of it’s traffic overnight. The lesson here is that many media companies put all their eggs in one basket: Facebook influencer traffic. Their strategy worked until it didn’t, and now many are reassessing where to go next. Don’t let the doom and gloom hype of big name demises freak you out.

2. Facebook isn’t the only sheriff in town.

This new update reminds us of the one Facebook did in August of 2016, when they changed their algorithm to bury promoted viral content for more organic, newsworthy content. Many publishers – whom we happen to deal with on a daily basis – were quick to abandon Facebook and find new avenues of content promotion. Content discovery platforms like Taboola and Outbrain benefitted tremendously after the change, providing new opportunities for 3rd party advertisers to promote content and products.

3. It’s the internet, don’t lose faith and never doubt it.

The internet is so dynamic and fluid that when one opportunity closes, another will arise. As long as there are eyeballs, there will be opportunity. Entrepreneurs are innovative and marketers will find (or create) new ways to market products and content. As many advertisers, brands, agencies and publishers “scramble” for new avenues to promote to garner visits and sales, opportunities will emerge.

4. Facbeook influencer traffic is still a valid avenue!

It may have gotten lost in all the hype, but I can’t scream this loudly enough: you can still pay Facebook page owners for sharing content. The new Branded Content guidelines don’t completely prohibit paying a Facebook page owner for sharing content; rather, the Facebook influencer must use the Branded Content Tool to tag 3rd party advertisers on both Instagram and Facebook. According to Gary Lipovetsky, CEO of Provdr.com, another publisher that build a huge business on cheap Facebook influencer traffic, 3rd party advertisers can easily satisfy Facebooks requirements by a paragraph length description or caption to each post. Lipovetsky also thinks it will bode well for publishers long-term, helping increase organic reach.

OAREX Raises Maximum Advance Rate To 90%

We believe the sign of a good business is one that responds to its customers and demand in the marketplace. While supply side economics once had it’s place in our economy (and arguably still does with some tech stuff), gone are the days of “build it and they will come”. So in response to the marketplace, we’ve raised our advance rate from 80% to 90%. This means more money faster for our clients.

The way OAREX works is that we simplify payment terms for pubs by paying ad revenue from all partners on the same day. Instead of getting paid on net 30, net 45, net 60, net 75 and net 90 from multiple ad networks, we will pay you 90% of it on net 1, weekly or monthly. We then collect payment from your ad partners. We used to cap the advance rate at 80% of the invoice value, and have since raised it to 90% for two main reasons.

First is that with an 90% advance rate, pubs can reinvest more proceeds into traffic and user acquisition campaigns. This is the obvious reason for bumping the advance rate to 90%, and what we heard most from the market. With a 90% advance rate, pubs can accelerate growth way faster than if they are receiving 80%. Every dollar matters.

Secondly, and perhaps not so obvious, is that with a 90% advance rate, pubs need a smaller margin to operate with net positive cash flow. At an 80% advance rate, pubs have to operate at 25%+ margins to make up for the 20% they are not receiving from OAREX. However with a 90% advance rate, pubs only have to operate at 12% margins to have net positive cash flow. At a 12% margin, pubs can deploy more of their capital and make up for the 10% they don’t receive from OAREX.

To illustrate, here is an example at an 80% advance, where clients can see profit growth of 420%. This assumes the following:

  • $10,000 in starting capital
  • Margins of 20% (conservative)
  • Average wait days to get paid is 60
  • OAREX rev share of 2.50% per month
  • Time horizon is 6 months
  • We hold back 20% of cash as invoices paid OAREX

Compare with an example at a 90% advance. With the same assumptions, you can see the growth differential when we give the clients the extra 10%. Clients can grow 2,042% with a 90% advance from OAREX, versus 420% with an 80% advance.

We’re glad we have the flexibility to provide the market with what it wants. We will continue to be flexible with clients and dynamic in our product offering, to assure the digital media ecosystem with the best product on the market. Inquire today to see if you qualify for 90%.

Chrome’s Ad Block Update & How To Preserve Publisher Revenues

chromes ad block

Last month, Google pushed an update to it’s Chrome browser that automatically blocks ad that are said to harm user experience. Ads that harm user experience are ads such as pop-ups, sound-on autoplay videos, and ads that stick to the viewable window regardless of scrolling. The standards used for blocking ads by Chrome have been agreed upon and set forth by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), whose board is made up of giants Facebook and Google, along with the IAB and other major advertisers. Many publishers feared this would result in loss revenue, but that doesn’t appear to be the case yet. Read on to see if your revenue is at risk and what you can do about Google Chrome’s ad block.

Google Chrome’s Ad Block Is Targeting Annoying Ads

The CBA is targeting 6 types of “annoying” ads that harm user experience, and  variations of those ad types. These ads harm user experience because they cover content or trigger sounds via video without opting to view the video. These are the ads Google Chrome’s ad block is targeting:

  1. Pop-up ads
  2. Autoplay videos with sound
  3. Prestitial ads with and without countdown clocks
  4. Large sticky ads that lock when users scroll
  5. Full-screen scroll-overs
  6. Flashing animated ads

Ad density higher than 30% on mobile is also prohibited.

We’ve seen many clients with at least one of these types of ads within their header bidding or waterfall stack. Although we frequently see it, fortunately for most top-tier publishers these types of ads do not account for a significant amount of revenue. That said however, it is important that you understand how to comply with the CBA guidelines so as not to get banned.

The CBA Guidelines: Google Playing Nice

If a publisher is in violation, Google will get them a 30-day notice of violations, and a chance to rectify them before Chrome starts blocking their ads – and it will take multiple violations. The threshold for blocking is if 7.5% of page views have existing infringing ads for the first two months after Feb. 15th, and 5% for the following four months and 2.5% after that. For persistently bad sites, Google will block ads at the ad network level using EasyList, the same open source software used by AdBlock Plus.

These are the rules set forth by the CBA and Google has promised to strictly adhere to them. According to Google, as of the date of implementation, only 1% of publishers were not compliant based on audit of more than 100,000 sites. Google also noted that 42% of sites that were in violation fixed their issues by Feb. 12.

Google has made it clear that if a publisher does not comply, ALL ads will be blocked on that publishers site — including the plain vanilla display ads we’re so desensitized to seeing. That could significantly impair a publishers revenue stream given that Chrome has 62% of all mobile traffic and 59% of all desktop traffic. Fear not, as Google has also made it very clear that they will fair warning.

If you’d like to test your site for any infractions, try Google’s Ad Experience Report.

Exposed! New Fraud Scheme Dubbed HyphBot

hyphbot oarex

Ad tech company Adform recently released a deep analysis after uncovering a new fraud scheme dubbed “HyphBot.” HyphBot has scammed advertisers and pubs every single day since its launch. Thousands of fake domains and millions of fake URLs were created by fraudsters through a file known as sortedUnixWords.txt. Adform researchers believe the bot has been actively running since August, if not earlier.

The suspicious domain name patterns were noticed by Adform after raking through illegitimate site traffic detected by ads.txt. Notably, two specific patterns showed up so frequently, prompting Adform to monitor HyphBot activity. The first pattern is a domain name followed by several non related words, i.e. forbes.com/red-throated_mid-atlantic. The second HyphBot pattern with a domain followed by random numbers and letters i.e. forbes.com/4qr56. By developing highly advanced filters through their platform, Adform can quantify the amount of requests from these unusual URL patterns and determine which premium publishers are being affected. They are continuing to investigate where and who this Bot was created by and how to shut it down. Adform has kept the details of their findings secret until now. This is so the fraudsters aren’t able to hack into Adform’s filters designed to detect and reverse what Hyphbot is doing.

Many industry leaders – including ourselves – agree that making the digital advertising industry more transparent is necessary for the future of digital advertising. Adform took a step in the right direction by informing everyone of their findings so quickly. Adform hopes that by gathering this information and exposing this scam, a sense of urgency will buzz throughout the industry.

People should be actively seeking the next steps to combat fraud as an industry. We recently discussed domain spoofing and the power moves JPMorgan made to combat ad fraud. Ads.txt was rolled out just a week prior, and many were taking a deeper look at what ads.txt could do to protect companies from scams.

Adform is a supporter of ads.txt. By releasing this data on HyphBot, they hope more people will educate themselves on ads.txt and understand its capabilities. If major players such as eBay and Walmart follow Google’s lead and adopt ads.txt, many more companies will follow suit. It has to start somewhere. We hope that leaders do what they do best – step up and set the tone in an effort to make the digital advertising world stronger and more transparent.

How To Structure Sponsored Content Campaigns

Author note: this is part 2 in a series about how to get started with sponsored content campaigns in order to drive sales, eyeballs and clicks to your website. For part 1, check out Getting Started With Sponsored Content.

The best practices for structuring a sponsored content campaign on each network are slightly different; however, there are some key things to get right that work across the board from my experience over the past four years running sponsored content campaigns.

Each campaign should be set up following some guidelines:

  • One piece of content per campaign
  • One device per campaign
  • One country per campaign
  • Limit to 5 -15 ads per campaign
  • Test 3 headline angles (ie none of them use the same words)
  • Test 5 different images with each headline

A few extra tips for effective testing & tracking:

  • The image is more important than the title to grab attention
  • Use Google Analytics to track post click performance
  • Track campaign name, source (ad network name), and the publisher site
  • Outbrain has publishers and sections, track both
  • Revcontent has Channels and widgets, track both
  • Taboola just has sites for tracking / blocking / bid modifying

Optimizing Sponsored Content Campaigns

This could be an article on it’s own so I will just give you the major items to check. The biggest mistake I see is people optimizing way too early. They cut off volume before even having enough data to make a proper decision.

Here is my testing approach:

  • Wait three days, if you don’t get clicks. Start over
  • Create a new campaign if no traction
  • Try new images & titles for the same piece of content
  • Do not add new ads to an unsuccessful campaign
  • Repeat this until you can get 50–100 clicks per day at a minimum
  • Once something takes off, wait a week before optimizing and blocking
  • Pause all ads except your top one. Two at most
  • Re-create other ads in a new campaign

A few extra tips for success:

  • Keep testing, sometimes it takes several tries, especially when you are starting
  • Continuously check competitive intelligence tools to see new advertisers & angles
  • Try out zip code targeting for local campaigns (Outbrain & Yahoo Gemini)
  • Use City or State names in your ad headlines using macros (Outbrain & Revcontent)
  • Use Brax.io to simplify creating ad variations, analyzing performance & optimizing campaigns

Now go out there and crush your traffic and sales goals using sponsored content. Right now, the price is cheap compared to Google and Facebook. That won’t last much longer as more advertisers jump on board to drive new customer acquisition.

This post was written by Mark Simon, co-founder of of Brax.io, a platform that helps performance marketers scale, automate and simplify native advertising. 

The JP Morgan Domain Spoofing Wild Goose Chase

With digital advertising passing tv advertising sales for the first time ever in 2016, it really makes you think just how many ads digital viewers are consuming, and where exactly they are being placed on the web. A single ad can make it onto hundreds of thousands of websites, which typically leads to advertising platforms placing them on sites that companies would prefer the ads not appear on.

Perfect example: JPMorgan Chase and the infamous ad placement on the “Hillary 4 Prison” website. Seeing a Chase ad on a website like this naturally allows viewers to draw conclusions. This may read as Chase being a supporter of the website, something Chase was clearly not. Chase drastically decreased the number of sites that their ads would be placed on moving forward; from 400,000 down to a shocking 7,000. By carefully selecting the sites they want to advertise on, Chase figured they could reach their target audience in a much more tactful and efficient way. This proved to be true when they saw that ad viewability increased by 5%. The overall goal was to reduce fraud, which they did by an impressive 49%.

The actions Chase has taken in the last 8 months have stirred up much conversation in the ad tech and advertising industries. As one of the biggest players in the game, they are speaking up about legitimacy and transparency in the often dark and fraudulent digital advertising industry. Many other companies are planning to take actions of their own, reducing the overall amount of inventory being purchased. For many sites that rely on advertising revenues to operate, companies purchasing less inventory could be a huge cash flow / revenue problem. Despite actions taken by Chase, it’s still an uphill battle.

Chase still faces issues with domain spoofing, where poser sites act as if they are high-quality sites. Domain spoofing can also be called inventory spoofing, where fraudsters illicitly list inventory belonging to a top-tier publisher, syphoning ad dollars from publishers. Although the IAB’s ads.txt initiative could potentially solve these issues, it remains yet to be seen. The Authorized Digital Sellers List was just rolled out last week, and Chase isn’t interested in using ads.txt until its major ad publishers begin to use it as well. Here’s looking at you, eBay, WalMart, Yahoo…

As always, stay tuned.

IAB’s Authorized Digital Sellers List Launched

authorized digital sellers list oarex

Today the Interactive Advertising Bureau is finally launching their anti-domain spoofing initiative, ads.txt. The Authorized Digital Sellers list, known as ads.txt, is an inventory verification system that assure advertisers they are purchasing real inventory from the claimed publisher. This initiative has been launched in response to domain-spoofing, where fraudsters list inventory belonging to top-tier publishers, stealing advertising dollars from those publishers.

Ad-spoofing has become a huge problem in the digital media ecosystem for both advertisers and publishers. For advertisers, they end up purchasing fake inventory, and for publishers, they miss out on advertiser dollars because fraudsters syphoned money from ad budgets that should have been spent on inventory on their own site. Ad-spoofing is big in video ads because of the limited inventory for video and the higher CPMs. The extent of ad spoofing damage was reported by the Wall Street Journal last December, which is likely the single event that triggered the brainstorm that created ads.txt.

The blueprint for ads.txt was made public end of May. The way it works is almost like a verification technology, enabling content owners to declare who is and is not authorized to sell their inventory (sounds a lot like block-chain technology, doesn’t it?). As the IAB explains it:

‘This new tool, known as ads.txt, is a pre-formatted index of authorized sellers that publishers can post to their domains. Programmatic buyers can then use these publisher ads.txt files to screen for fake or misrepresented inventory.’

(Source: IAB Tech Lab Press Release)

Sounds cool, right? The Authorized Digital Sellers list has received both criticism and support since the blueprint came out. However, Google has thrown its weight behind ads.txt, by recently stating it will only allocate advertiser dollars to publishers that have implemented ads.txt. Supply side partners such as AppNexus, IndexExchange and Teads are also on board, and claim to have initiated verification technologies prior to ads.txt. As of now, 13% of the world’s top-tier publishers are signed on with the Authorized Digital Sellers list, but that number will likely go up if they want to receive ad dollars.

The net effect of ads.txt, remains to be seen. Proponents claim publisher revenues should go up because fraudsters will no longer be able to syphon ad budget money from them. Opponents say it’s not enough, and that the fraudsters will find a way around it. We will be watching it closely and advise publishers to employ ads.txt, because, why not?

Stay tuned.

Getting Started With Sponsored Content

Native advertising is growing fast likely because it supplements a brand’s content marketing strategy. After all, no one wants to spend 40+ hours creating great content that nobody sees or cares to see, right? One of the less talked about but highly effective forms of native advertising is sponsored content aka recommended content. In this post, we guide you on how to take advantage of this massive source of traffic to grow your audience, brand and sales.

What is Sponsored Content?

Sponsored content is exactly that – content sponsored by someone (usually a business). You’ve seen it on Facebook with Sponsored Posts and Twitter with Promoted Tweets. It’s even on Reddit with “Promoted” stories. Below are content recommendation networks that show sponsored headlines at the bottom of online news articles.

Here is an example taken from ESPN:

sponsored content

Ever see this widgets on a website? Ok great, here is what they’re all about…

What You Need To Start With Sponsored Content

There are two main things you need to start: $100 and a great piece of content. The content can be a blog post, podcast, video, slideshow article, mobile app or even an advertorial.

If you don’t have at least a $100 budget to test then don’t even waste your time setting up an account with a major network. For some people a hundred bucks won’t be enough to test the waters. It is the minimum for consideration.

Sponsored Content: The Major Players 

Outbrain will let you start with as little as $10/day campaign budget; however, they are the most strict in terms of compliance. Why? Because they have big publishers on their platform such as CNN & ESPN.

Taboola competes head to head with Outbrain in size and prized properties such as MSN. It is a little easier to get advertorials approved on Taboola. You may need a higher initial deposit with Taboola to start off.

Revcontent is a bit smaller however they still have lots of quality traffic including Forbes.com. The tricky part with Revcontent is the minimum budget is $100/day so you need a higher test budget. Check out this Revcontent tutorial & optimization guide to make efficient use of your test budget.

Yahoo Gemini is how you advertise on all of the Oath owned properties from Yahoo & AOL including Yahoo Sports (think fantasy) and Finance. Yahoo is even more strict than Outbrain for compliance. However, they offer self serve sign up so you can get started quickly. Check out this Getting Started with Yahoo Gemini guide for a deep dive.

Sharethrough is a bit different because they are a Supply Side Platform (SSP) that offer in-feed units on major publishers such as Mashable, Men’s Health and Rolling Stone. They are a bit more like Yahoo Gemini because it is an individual ad similar to what you see in Facebook news feed than 3-4 ads in a “widget”  as shown in the example earlier.

There are several other smaller networks; these are just the biggest networks in the US and Europe.

Where to See What’s Working

There are several competitive intelligence tools that cover native ads so you can see who the top spenders are and what kind of ads they are running. Take a trial run of Adbeat, WhatRunsWhere or Advault to see which one fits your needs the most.

Or if you have more time than money; visit the publishers directly with your ad blocker turned off. It is inefficient but gives you a real sense for what is showing up “in the wild”.

Personally I start with a competitive intelligence tool to check my competitors ads and where they are showing up. Then I go to some of the major publishers manually that are exposed to see the ads in the wild in real time.

In part 2, I will be detailing how to structure sponsored content campaigns. Stay tuned!

This post was written by Mark Simon, co-founder of of Brax.io, a platform that helps performance marketers scale, automate and simplify native advertising. 

OAREX Secures $10M in Funding, Strengthens Digital Media Presence

CLEVELAND, OH – OAREX Capital Markets, Inc. (“OAREX”), a leading non-bank financing institution providing financing for digital media companies, today announced that it has closed on a $10,000,000 line of credit from a group of lenders, led by Arena Investors, LP, a New York-based global investment firm.

OAREX accelerates programmatic advertising revenue for digital publishers such as websites, app developers, ad networks and supply-side platforms. Accelerated cash flow allows media companies to scale their content promotion and user acquisition campaigns, and pay supply side partners and vendors sooner.

“This transaction significantly improves our ability to fund publishers,” Hanna Kassis, founder & CEO said. “It will allow us to continue to provide liquidity in a timely and efficient manner, allowing clients to better match their income with expenses to scale rapidly,” said Kassis.

Since inception, OAREX has helped accelerate programmatic advertising revenue for hundreds of websites and apps, and has purchased millions of dollars in outstanding receivables. “We tailor our service to our clients’ individual needs, making sure they’re positioned for growth,” Kassis said.

Capital & Credit as a Service

OAREX offers a non-loan product, making it appealing to many new digital media companies that are not interested in assuming debt and providing personal guarantees. OAREX accomplishes this by financing publishers’ advertising receivables, providing immediate liquidity for growth. Clients can sign up for one-time funding, or a monthly facility between 6 and 12 months. OAREX funds clients on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on their needs and cash flow.

“We are not a lender,” Kassis said, “we are a capital partner with the aim of helping clients grow.” OAREX takes a hands-on approach to servicing its clients, despite newly developed back-end technology that allows OAREX to verify receivables instantly. “We believe human interaction is critical to our providing the best service, even in the digital age,” said Kassis. As a value-add, OAREX offers a database to clients of all payment, collection and credit data on ad networks, ad exchanges and other intermediaries in the digital media ecosystem. “If this information can help our clients, then it can only help us by sharing it with them,” said Kassis.

About OAREX Capital Markets, Inc.

OAREX Capital Markets, Inc. (www.oarex.com) provides fast, flexible funding for companies in the digital media ecosystem earning revenue from advertising, affiliates and marketplaces such as the App Store. Established in 2013, OAREX is an acronym for the “Online Advertising Revenue Exchange”, and is located in the heart of Cleveland’s historical Tremont neighborhood. For more information, please contact Hanna Kassis or Taylor Haddix at (855) 466-2739.

About Arena Investors, LP

Arena Investors, LP (www.arenaco.com) is a global investment firm and merchant capital provider that invests across the entire credit spectrum in areas where conventional sources of capital are scarce. Arena focuses on corporate private credit, real estate private credit, commercial & industrial assets, structured finance, consumer assets as well as structured private investments in public securities.

Update: Tech Consortium Launched by AppNexus

While the rest of the ad tech world awaits the announcement of AppNexus’ IPO release date, we decided to check back in on the New York-based firm. Originally, it was predicted AppNexus would go public by Q2 2017, but they have yet to be listed on public markets. They did however recently launch their open source tech consortium called prebid.org.

We covered the buzz about the tech consortium between AppNexus, LiveRamp, and MediaMath back in May. Index Exchange, Rocketfuel, Live Inent and Open X are also collaborating to create a strong alliance against the ad tech duopoly held between Google and Facebook. These tech companies are forging an alliance within an industry that AppNexus President Michael Rubenstein has labeled as “broken”. The overall goal for these companies through the consortium is to bring transparency and economic efficiency to publishers, and to present engaging and relevant content to internet users. Very much in line with our mission at OAREX as well.

In late June, Tech Insider spoke with Rubenstein to discuss IPO updates. Although that particular conversation was dismissed, he did share that AppNexus works closely with and has a “deep relationship” with Facebook and Google. While they may be rivals, the ad tech giants actually benefit from AppNexus’ efforts considering antitrust authorities may scrutinize their business activities due to their control in the market place.

Interestingly enough, Google has the chance to thrive whether or not the consortium presents new challenges. They are actively trying to please their clients and not push them to seek a third option like AppNexus through features like ad blocking. We are inspired by AppNexus Chief Strategy Officer Keith Petri who, like us, loves seeing “…leading companies bonding together to address an industry-wide problem which cannot and will not be solved without collaboration.” We look forward to seeing what opportunities the consortium will present publishers.