Project Sunblock originated with Jeremy Lightstone in Toronto in 2007 Having worked in the performance network space, he noticed the need for increased transparency and validation in network space, especially given the emergence of automated trading environments.
The relationship with the UK team started when Jeremy’s father, and now Chairman, Ian Lightstone, observed an opportunity for CV in the UK market. The UK was ahead of North America in terms of protecting brands online with IASH then already established. During a meeting at Adtech NY in 2010 between Lightstone and the now COO of P.Sunblock Andrew Goode, a relationship was formed that would see the product evolve from an embryonic North American brand safety tool into a market-leading CV tool tailored to the evolving needs of the complex global digital market.
With the DTSG legislation, and the increasing prominence of both brand safety and buying analytics, we believe that P.Sunblock is ideally placed to offer our local and European clients the best possible product, sitting alongside the highest quality client services.
For clarity, is the European operation an extension of the North American sales business, or is it becoming effectively hubbed in Europe with development in North America?
Our core tech team is based in Toronto and we have a satellite sales office in NYC. Our main commercial and client services teams are based in London. We currently work with our partners in multiple markets with several of our clients, but currently, our key market is the UK.
We work with cloud-based servers, so international roll-out is swift and seamless. Most of our clients are international, so our ability to work globally is paramount to the future success of the business. This was shown with one of our first major wins. Having started work with a leading global network in the UK, we are now working with Germany and rolling out across the rest of Europe shortly.
During 2013, P.Sunblock is set for large-scale expansion with the opening of a West Coast (California) office and local market representation in key European markets.
Can you demystify some of the verification capabilities?
At Project Sunblock we are committed to the idea that real-time should mean real-time. P.Sunblock reads a page in real-time to determine whether or not it would be appropriate for our clients to appear next to the particular content — a cached page cannot give the same capability. One only has to think of any page that has a comments section to know that one new comment can completely colour the environment of that page. Referencing a cached page may mean that this sort of content is missed, and therefore an ad is served where it shouldn’t be.
The recent ABCe audit results showed that Project Sunblock is the only tool that is able to react to real-time changes in page content. Where ads are being increasingly bought in real time environments, it is vital that any tool is able to respond as page content changes.
Is the ability to see through nested iFrames possible? If so, how ethical is it?
As I am sure you know, an iFrame is an HTML element allowing one to embed another HTML document within a framed area; essentially, a way to nest web pages within each other. Appearing around 1997, they offered many advantages over regular frames/frame sets to developers of web pages.
Today, we see iFrames in use all over the web, especially in advertising, as the creative can be its own complete HTML page, rather than just an image or flash file.
How do iFrames interfere with content verification? Because of a security policy (Same Origin Policy) that browser developers put in place very early in the history of the World Wide Web. The Same Origin policy prevents two windows (an iFrame on a page is considered a separate window) from communicating with each other unless they originate from the same place.
If an ad is in an iFrame, a CV tool is therefore prevented from communicating with the page from which an ad is displayed, and so the page content, ad position etc. is unavailable to us – as the CV tags sit inside that iFrame.
If the ad iFrame is the only one (i.e. directly sitting on the web page and not nested within two or more frames) then it is usually possible to determine the information required, as the data is often available within the top iFrame.
Despite what some verification companies may claim, there is no way to ‘break out’ of all iFrames, or violate the Same Origin policy. Browsers simply do not permit this to occur.
There are two exceptions:
1. Hack the browser. There are a couple of loopholes which are currently being exploited for two of the major browsers which will allow a side step of Same Origin Policy. Legality and ethicality of this is questionable. Currently, Chrome, Safari and Opera aren’t affected to our best knowledge. Circumnavigating Same Origin Policy means there are also questions raised about privacy and the ability to read user browser history. There are currently no tools that are able to claim to have 100% cross-domain iFrame breaking capabilities.
2. Place an identifier on the publisher site. If you have an identifier already placed on the publisher’s site then you are able to use that to deliver your code once identified and, therefore, if the ad is in an iFrame, you can essentially look at it from the outside. The downside of this is that you already know the publisher, and therefore the value of verifying these domains is limited. After all, torrent and malware sites are unlikely to agree to have a verification tool tag their site. Content verification’s value is the ability to bring transparency, and the ability to filter content, to a blind-buy. Secondary to that is the ability to deliver added value analytics.
How does a company such as yours diversify yourself in such a crowded space? Would it be a concern if every ad network decided to build their own CV tools?
Content verification will continue to play a key part in the evolution of digital media. The ability to utilise the best-of-breed on performance display, with the assurance that your media will not appear against inappropriate content, is set alongside the exceptional buying efficiencies that our in-view and dwell-time analytics offer. This can only mean that media works harder for all in the chain. The market has been going through a ‘need-to-know’ period, where advertisers, media agencies and all manner of media owners, have been getting to grips with the opportunities that content verification offers. This is now moving into the ‘need-to-act’ stage, with many of our clients dramatically ramping up the proportion of their media through CV.
P.Sunblock is the only tool accredited by ABCe to work in real-time on a page-level. Uniquely working with IBM’s vast categorised url securities database, domain-level and, crucially, real-time reading of the page itself, means that we offer the best possible product. This is coupled with local market, high-quality, proactive client service. The vast majority of our clients have moved to P.Sunblock, despite having worked with alternatives in the past. We must therefore be doing something right!
With regards to in-house solutions, we firmly believe that it is our neutrality that is fundamental to the recognition and acceptance of the results. Where blind buying is resultant in large volumes of ‘unseen’ or inappropriate placements, buyers will require a neutral third-party tool. Networks with their own tool run the risk of significant discrepancies to the buyers figures. Our technology has been in development for five years, and it is precisely this credibility that networks would struggle to replicate with buyers.
In-house solutions may be able to replicate some of the functionality of the main CV tools, but it would take a significant investment of time and resources to be able to have anything that is as effective as what is available ‘off the shelf’.
Where do Video and Mobile fit in? Are these likely to be major growth channels? How are the challenges likely to differ?
Mobile is clearly a huge growth market. With the advent of smartphones, both developed and developing markets have the ability to not only have a tool that allows internet access relatively cheaply, but also to have access wherever you are.
As agencies drive the demand to allow third-party tracking, the ability to deploy content verification also grows, where previously networks were only allowing gif and click tags. The challenges faced will be able to accurately determine geo-location, as a user could be connecting via WiFi, and therefore have a traditional IP address, or more difficult would be connecting via mobile signal. GPS is one way to find a location and triangulation of signal is another.
Could you explain a little more about your partnership with FACT Federation?
Whilst we don’t have a firm partnership with FACT, we have been discussing with them how we can ensure that our customers are not able to deliver advertising on known illegal sites, by using their site lists to automatically block advertising on known copyright theft sites.
We give our partners the flexibility to determine what they deem inappropriate for their campaigns, however, where sites have been declared as illegal, we don’t believe that they should be supported by advertising, and we also know that our customers wouldn’t support their activities either.
FACT represents a body that is taking positive steps to make sure that copyright theft is not funded by advertising revenues.Global Desk Editor