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Stripping Back Heavy Ad Tech is Paying Dividends for LADbible

Tim Cross  27 January, 2021

For all the talk within the industry about the importance of publishers providing a smooth and quality user experience, it’s still all too common for this mantra to not carry through to mobile. Most of us will know the feeling – you click onto an unfamiliar webpage and your phone grinds to a halt, struggling to load a page bloated with pictures, videos and interactive elements.

And ad tech is often one of the main culprits, according to LADbible’s head of programmatic Macauley Lowe. “Publishers tend to incorporate multiple layers of ad tech on their websites, with revenue being the main barometer of success and UX ultimately taking a back seat,” he said. “This can be damaging as over time, the UX suffers, yet strong revenues make it difficult to justify the ad removal.”

But overloading webpages with heavy ads is obviously counterproductive. Users are likely to leave the site before video ads run their course, or even before they load.

It’s a frustration that Stevie Antonioni, LADbible’s head of display and programmatic sales, experienced during her years working in the agency world. “Coming from an agency background, I know that a real bugbear for advertisers and agencies is when a piece of great creative ends up being ill received because of slow loading times that disrupt browsing experiences for audiences,” she said.

Tackling this frustration is one of the primary goals of LADx, a video ad product launched by LADbible last September. LADx sells video inventory across LADbible Group properties (LADbible, Tyla, UNILAD, GAMINGbible and SPORTbible) on a cost-per completed view (CPCV) basis.

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Lowe says that LADbible generally makes sure it works with tech partners which aren’t going to slow down the user experience. And for LADx specifically, the publisher uses adaptive bitrate stream to convert high-res video into a lightweight ad format.

In essence, adaptive bitrate streaming detects a device’s bandwidth, and then sends the highest quality video the device is capable of streaming without slowing down. Video quality adapts through the course of a single video, meaning the user is always receiving the highest quality video possible without disrupting the user experience.

For a cost-per-completed view product, maintaining a quality user experience is vital, to ensure as many users as possible watch ads through to the end. And Lowe says that using adaptive bitrate streaming, powered by Swedish video ad tech company SeenThis, has helped achieve that.

Lowe says LADbible also uses a process of continuously monitoring consumer sentiment towards content on the groups properties, to make sure they’re serving the most appropriate videos. And the publisher also regularly A/B tests and ad solutions it uses to figure out which ad placements and positions work best. Lowe says that all of these factors combined have helped keep completion rates high for LADx buys.

Building trust through transparency

The other major buy-side bugbear which LADx seeks to address is transparency, or rather, a lack of it when it comes to pricing.

The cost-per-completed view model is designed to help advertisers understand exactly what they’re paying for. And LADbible is completely up front about pricing. LADx is sold from £0.02 CPCV for creative under ten seconds long, while ads between ten and 20 seconds long are sold at an effective CPCV of £0.03-£0.04.

Antonioni says LADx’s transparent pricing has been well received by the industry. “There is real value in the openness it creates between us as a publisher and the brands that we work with,” she said.

And Antonioni believes greater adoption of these sorts of pricing structures across the industry could have long-term benefits. “If advertisers have greater confidence and trust in our industry as a result of a more transparent ad ecosystem, it would be safe to say they would see greater reason to invest more in marketing and realize the potential for advertising to be a significant growth driver for their businesses,” she said. “We know how effective multichannel marketing can be at its best, so we welcome a step change to more consistent and transparent pricing across the industry and are happy to be leading the charge in that area.”

Shift to contextual

Now that LADx has been up and running for nearly half a year, the publisher is looking at how to develop the offering further.

Antonioni says in the long-term, she’d like to see a similar product expanded to cover more inventory. “In time we would like to offer guaranteed outcome opportunities across our display offering; with ad unit pricing and benchmarks tailored to deliver against the full sales funnel,” she said.

More immediately, LADbible is working on another new video product, while also fleshing out its contextual targeting capabilities.

Antonioni says LADbible already has strong targeting capabilities based on first-party data collected from its 22 million unique monthly users in the UK.

“As you’d expect, two thirds of our audience are between the ages of 18-34, however, what might surprise you is that many are married or living with their partner (52 percent) and have started a family (17 percent),” she said.

“With such a cross-section of active users across LADbible Group, it’s easy to use these attributes and they can be shaped for clients within our DMP to create 1st party segments; whether it be behaviour-led segments, attitudinal cohorts crafted from our extensive on-site polls, or even matching to a brands 1st party data via a ‘cleanroom’ approach,” she added.

But Antonioni says the new focus on contextual targeting is being driven by LADbible’s content strategy. “As our on-site footprint continues to grow and with new launches such as in November 2020, we’re offering more written and related articles, so contextual targeting is also now driving a higher level of effectiveness,” she said.

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