Adobe’s Vision for Ad Validation: Project Adthenticate

While new to the market and perhaps less established than AdValidation, Adthenticate is an exciting development in the ad validation space for lots of reasons.  First, it has the resources of Adobe behind it, a mammoth corporation with some seriously smart development talent which I hope will continue to build on the current offering.  Second, Adobe owns Flash, the mainstay creative format of virtually every form of desktop display rich media ad, which means it has more than its fair share of QA problems for publishers, and for which Adobe is best positioned to address.  Adobe understands this technology better than anyone else possibly could, so it’s exciting to see a technology owner enter the validation space.  Finally, after speaking with Adobe directly, it’s clear they have a forward thinking vision for where this technology can go, the potential applications, and the resources and clout to make it happen.

Specific to their technology, Adthenticate for now only QAs Flash tags, although it seems to do so exceedingly well.  Adthenticate checks all the basics you would expect such as ad dimensions and filesize, but looks at framerate, animation time, and CPU usage similar to AdValidation.  Uniquely, however, Adobe’s product goes deep in video, measuring a variety of elements like the file format, which codec is utilized, video framerate, and more.  From a measurement standpoint, Adthenticate is pretty comprehensive.

Any user who likes can sign up for an account with Adobe to test a tag, either a swf hosted on a url (which you can likely scrape off a website of your choice using Firebug, or a similar web development tool), a local file you might have, or even an ad tag you have hanging around. For now the demo account only checks against the IAB 3.0 specs, but publishers, advertisers, agencies, or even rich media vendors who are interested in using their own spec can contact Adobe to partner with them during the beta period.  The service also offers an API connection that’s integrated with DFP and other ad servers, so publishers can automatically push tags from the ad server for QA if they want.

For now, Adthenticate still has some work to do to be a home run solution, but for a beta release, it’s not half bad.  What’s most interesting to me however is their vision of integrating ad validation into the current agency and rich media vendor workflow, and get ahead of the problem before it ever reaches Ad Ops.  Speaking with their Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Lalit Balchandani, a few weeks ago, he outlined a roadmap Adobe has to integrate Adthenticate’s abilities into Flash Pro (check out the mock-up below) so advertisers and rich media vendors can ensure tags will comply with ad specs as they build the creative.

Taking the concept even further, Balchandani explained that eventually, Adobe wants to build a type of 3rd party certification into ad tags, so publishers know that tags have already been QA’d against a particular ad spec based on meta data or some type of fingerprint built into the ad.  The idea would be that publishers could load their ad spec into a centralized validation tool, and advertisers could automatically validate their ads against that spec in advance, and provide independent verification that their ads comply.  Now wouldn’t that be nice?

We’ll see if it happens, but the approach makes a ton of sense for the Ops community on all sides, and has the potential to remove a major implementation roadblock for the industry as a whole. Going forward, I’d like to see Adobe do more to extend their service to more than just flash files, and do some more work on the workflow side of the product to make it simpler to batch ads to the system, without the need for Ops to manually separate the tags from the ad server export files.  Adobe’s API is promising, particularly if the agency side gets engaged in tacking the issue on their end, before they get to a publisher’s Ops department.   A more effective option for the near term to keep publishers excited might be to take a similar approach to AdValidation’s ability to parse & queue tags directly from agency emails.  I’d also like to see Adobe make it simple to export results to agencies, or host the results on a dedicated URL, which Ops teams could email as evidence, and provide the necessary detail on a tag basis.

All that said, this is a project to watch.  Adobe has already built an impressive toolset and their roadmap for the product is exciting to say the least.  Ad Ops teams would do well to take a moment from their week and at least explore the demo functionality.  For teams with especially burdensome QA work, this could also be an excellent opportunity to get involved and shape the product roadmap, which Adobe seems to have customized quite a bit for certain clients.  For more information, visit the Adthenticate site or email the Adobe team at Adthenticate (at) adobe.com.

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