How did Setupad unlock Google AdX demand and grew ad revenue by 192% on the Kyiv Post with a lightweight Prebid technology?
About The Kyiv Post
The Kyiv Post is the oldest English-language newspaper in Ukraine founded in 1995 and a winner of the 2014 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.
Both the newspaper’s motto and its mission reflects the Kyiv Post’s longtime commitment to the highest journalistic and ethical standards. The newspaper stands by principle of integrity, independence, and freedom. Alongside its highly praised political and business and entertainment coverage, the Kyiv Post is also a centre for investigative journalism.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, the newspaper has been heavily focusing on the coverage of these events, with in-depth opinion pieces, special field reports, and daily briefings.
Dmytro Vakuliuk, Head of Digital at the Kyiv Post says: “It’s with great pride we can say that everything written on the Kyiv Post can be fact-checked. We are staying true to our mission of being objective, truthful, and unbiased, while maintaining integrity. We’re spreading the truth not just to the Ukrainians and expatriates, but to the whole world.”
The around 50-member staff consists of an international team of journalists, editors, and contributors, as well as technical and commercial teams.
Since the Russian invasion in Ukraine in February 2022, the advertising industry, specifically in Central and Eastern Europe, has been hit hard. Not only July 2022 was the lowest month for ad spending since COVID-19, many advertisers stopped buying ad inventory next to the content about war, out of fear it may be potentially damaging to their brand. This resulted in unsold impressions and lower ad fill rate for many publishers who covered the war.
Besides, Ukraine is a European hub for technology and innovation. Many tech giants like Google, Samsung, and Amazon have a R&D facilities in Ukraine, and more than 210 adtech and martech companies are located in Ukraine, attracting $400 million worth of investments. Naturally, instability in this region and costs associated with increased security measures and personnel relocation has disrupted adtech operations of many companies and platforms.
A more in-depth analysis of the impact of the war on the advertising industry can be found here.
The Challenge: Provide a better return on the inventory compared to a previous monetization partner, unlock Google AdX demand, bring in fresh ideas while respecting the newspapers’ guidelines
For Setupad, it was vital to not only provide the client with better revenue results, but also support the publisher in the best way possible during horrible events that now take place in Ukraine.
The Kyiv Post isn’t just Ukraine’s leading English-language newspaper, it’s also a legacy. Therefore, the newspaper follows very strict guidelines when it comes to user experience, which the team at Setupad also had to take into account whilst providing tailored recommendations.
Dmytro Vakuliuk, Head of Digital at the Kyiv Post says: “I can’t stress enough how much I love working with Linda [Linda Kolontaja, Account Executive & Head of Sales at Setupad]. She’s been nothing but a fantastic professional, very talented and results-driven. She has brought so many fresh ideas to the table but always stayed respectful of our policies. The rest of the team involved are great professionals and wonderful people. We have a great understanding with them.”
We have therefore pinned down our approach with the Kyiv Post to 3 main optimizations: viewability, privacy, and premium ad quality.
Focus #1: Viewability
Firstly, we advised the publisher on the best ad layout following best practices to increase ad viewability for individual placements, as well as on the domain level. For example, the publisher previously had an ATF (above-the-fold) mobile ad placement with low viewability.
Above-the-fold placements usually have higher ad viewability than below-the-fold (BTF), however, if the ad is placed at the very top of the page, it’s gonna have a reverse effect on viewability because as soon users land on the page, they immediately start scrolling, omitting the top ad position.
It was therefore recommended to add a mobile ad position right after the first paragraph. According to our internal data, this is the best-performing ad position that generates up to 20-30% of the total ad revenue for most news publishers.
Dmytro Vakuliuk, Head of Digital at the Kyiv Post says: “Setupad helped us with the layout of the mobile version, which was basically reinvented. We got rid of the poor-performing ads and added more top-performing mobile ads.”
Secondly, we suggested removing the ad clutter by increasing the font size on the mobile version of the site. Typography is a very important part of the user experience that often gets overlooked. Not only does the ideal font size ensure a more legible text, but also helps to communicate an information hierarchy and support the publisher’s brand.
A font size increase by just 2px results in better readability, giving a publisher an extra space for showing more ads and may increase ad revenue by up to 30%.
Next, our smart ad refresh solution (Viewable Bid Optimization) was to find the best setup for maximum viewability. Setupad smart ad refresh mechanism monitors ad viewability, while a tailored algorithm prevents decreasing the CPM price when the ad is refreshed. In other words, ads only change when the next ad impression benefits both the publisher and the advertiser.
Finally, we have implemented lazy loading on many placements and devices. With this method, the ad is displayed right at the moment viewers are likely to see it. It is effective in optimizing website’s speed as no page resources are being used to load the ads that may never get seen. As a result, it helps to improve the user experience, while also improving the ad viewability score delivering only the viewable impressions.
Focus #2: Privacy
Since the publisher’s traffic primarily comes from Tier 1 countries, we communicated how important it is to collect data following the best privacy practices. Since Setupad CMP is both Google and IAB-approved and Google has announced that later this year it will require Google AdSense, Ad Manager, and AdMob publishers to only use a Google-certified CMP, we offered publishers to integrate our solution. Our team has altered the CMP design to match the publisher’s layout as closely as possible.
In addition, we have set up secure signals, which is a feature of Google Ad Manager and an encryption system that aims to protect sensitive information and maintain the privacy and trust of users. It allows publishers to pass data to authorized buyers and Open Bidding partners.
Focus #3: Premium ad quality
The aim of this focus was pretty simple – to safeguard the high-quality content from potentially harmful ads. As such, we have:
- Implemented a blocklist based on the publisher’s needs
- Enabled our default anti malvertising solution Boltive
- Encouraged the publisher to use our Google Chrome extension to quickly block unwanted ads should they appear
- Expanded the list of premium advertisers through Google AdX
- Optimized price floors to get rid of low-quality ads
- Actionable and evidence-based AdOps recommendations for directly-sold inventory and assistance with direct deal management
Dmytro Vakuliuk, Head of Digital at the Kyiv Post says: “Now I’ve started to see advertisers like BMW, which weren’t there previously. Now with your Chrome extension, we can real-time monitor and block competitor ads or ads that do not meet our standards.”
The Solution: Setupad Prebid Manage Account
The chosen product for the Kyiv Post was Setupad Prebid Manage Account. This type of integration gives publishers access to Google Ad Manager (GAM) with Google AdX demand, including Open Bidding, Amazon’s Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM), as well as premium Prebid client-side and server-side connections.
This type of product setup retains the same level of customer service as the standard header bidding wrapper but offers more flexibility and features such as optimization between direct-sold and programmatic campaigns, more demand from premium advertisers, and advanced GAM features to sell inventory at the highest possible price in real-time. “Manage Account” is the Multiple Customer Management (MCM) delegation type, in which the publisher grants account access to the partner (Setupad), but retains full control over his inventory.
After the successful implementation of the Setupad Prebid Manage Account, we have configured all Open Bidding connections in Google Ad Manager, as well as client-side and server-side connections. Next, we experimented with the auction timeout settings to ensure the fastest page loading speed with maximum viewability. The timeout, which was decreased to 300ms, allowed to gain extra ad impressions and translate into more revenue for the publisher.
Since our approach with the Kyiv Post was based on delivering the most optimal user experience, we performed the optimization of the prebid control file. After robust tests, we were able to see which partners bid the most and add value to the publisher’s demand path.
This is often referred to as demand path optimization (DPO). It’s done to remove an unnecessarily high number of SSPs that can increase page latency and worsen the user experience, ensure more transparency within the supply chain, and decrease the risk of ad fraud. So, the trick is not working with as many SSPs as possible but finding a sweet spot where each partner is adding a unique demand to the publisher, helping achieve the highest yield possible without harming the user experience.
We also enabled pricing rules in Google Ad Manager, which is an advanced technique for setting the correct price floors and reaching target CPMs.
The Result: 192% revenue growth, 60% eCPM growth, 55% viewability increase
Ad Revenue Results
In June 2022, the client had a different monetization solution. We compared the data from the previous monetization partner’s internal dashboard with Setupad data in June 2023.
Together with the efforts of the Kyiv Post’s digital marketing team to grow the website traffic and Setupad team’s ad strategy optimization and lightweight Prebid technology that allowed to significantly increase the ad impressions count, we managed to increase the revenue for the publisher by 192% and eCPM by 60%.
Part of the reason for such astonishing revenue growth can be attributed to Setupad’s server-to-server connections, including Prebid Server. Not only did they generate additional demand, but also reduced latency, resulting in faster page loading times and a smoother user experience, which was especially relevant in the chosen timeout setup.
Besides, we unlocked the Google AdX demand for the publisher, which boosted the eCPM and attracted premium demand.
Ad Viewability Results
The client also gladly provided us with a viewability report from May 2022, when they had Google AdSense, which we compared against the Setupad viewability report from May 2023. The Setupad data was pulled from the publisher’s Google Ad Manager and includes the average percentage of ad server’s viewable impressions and Google AdX viewable impressions.
According to the graph above, our viewability-focused optimization approach resulted in a 55% overall viewability increase.
In our blog, we frequently highlight how important viewability is for publishers. Not only do advertisers consider viewable inventory much more valuable, the programmatic industry focuses on tracking viewable impressions rather than served impressions. Therefore, every website optimization journey at Setupad begins with optimizing the client’s current setup for maximum viewability.
Toms Panders, CEO of Setupad: “We at Setupad consider it our great privilege and honour to work and support Ukrainian publishers during these sad times. Our business was built on the premise of supporting independent journalism and free access to information; it’s also in the best interest of the whole free world that media like the Kyiv Post continue to strive, especially when the world so desperately needs to fight propaganda coming from the Kremlin. Although we realize that the business opportunities in Ukraine have been severely impacted, as a community, we strongly hope for better times and in the meantime, we would like to offer our hand to Ukrainian publishers and find the best ways to support them.”
For us at Setupad, supporting and working with media like the Kyiv Post means supporting and fostering independent journalism, which plays a vital role in upholding democratic values.
Those are also the value we at Setupad stand by and are therefore extremely thankful to the publisher for trusting us during these difficult times. We would like to end this case study with the words of our client that emphasize this commitment:
Dmytro Vakuliuk, Head of Digital at the Kyiv Post says: “Journalism must exist as a standalone unit from the government, where the media should continuously reinvent and improve itself and rely only on facts and truthful sources. The Russian state-owned media is a prime example why we need independent journalism. This war [in Ukraine] isn’t just happening on the battlefield, it’s also happening in the media, and we’re fighting it in the best way we can.”