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Inside the mind of the advertiser, presented by Dave Marquard Presented by Dave Marquard, Director of Product Management, Publisher Solutions.

Will viewability measurement become the next click-through rate?

The industry is completely focused on viewability right now. You can't go a day without reading an article about the topic. While measuring whether an ad is in view is certainly critical, as an industry we need to avoid turning viewability into the next click-through rate. We need to all understand that, like a click, an ad that is confirmed to be in the viewing window of a user's screen is just a rough proxy for success. In fact, it is just the starting point. Having your ad in view will be "table stakes" in the near future. So don't fall into the trap of basing all decisions purely on viewability rate, because if you do, you will be very disappointed.

All Views Are Not Equal

If you optimize your media buy only around this new metric, you will be dissatisfied by your results. It turns out contextual categories such as adult content and gaming have some of the highest viewability rates on the planet! Furthermore, similar to the way click-through rates were artificially increased through road-blocks and pop-up ads, many sites are now being designed to maximize viewability above everything else. From ads that annoyingly follow readers around the page to websites that maximize the number of ads in view at the same time, we are about to embark upon a new era where only viewable ads will get credit. As a result of this, there will be numerous ways to "game" viewability measurement as a standalone metric.

A Singular Focus on Viewability Is An Open Invite For Fraud

The unsavory element in the industry has already taken gaming the system to another level. Similar to the way pay for clicks and the obsession with click-through rates spawned click fraud, the industry's new focus on viewability has opened the door for a different type of fraud: viewable impression fraud. And it’s thriving, because bots view ads a lot more frequently than humans do. This illicit behavior is harder to detect than click-rate fraud, as there is more of it and the source is widespread. Fraudulent bots can go anywhere, and it takes cutting-edge science to adequately detect and prevent them.

Marrying Quality And Viewability

So what’s next? An ad in view will become table stakes. The industry's conversation will quickly move to focusing on quality ad exposures. Measurement and targeting technologies will need to account for quantifiable quality metrics associated with every view. Without this distinction, the media buyer will be thoroughly gamed or end up purchasing highly viewed media that is very low quality or even unsafe. Quality encompasses many mission critical aspects of media beyond viewability, including the size of the ad relative to the viewing window, the share of view or number of other images in view at the same time, and the relevance and nature of the content where the ad appears. Nowhere is the distinction between a viewable ad and a quality viewable ad more important than with video. Video ads tell a story and there are many additional factors that are important in understanding ad effectiveness such as video ad completion percentage, auto play, and size of the video player. As the complexity increases, so do the ways to game viewability measurement. And with higher CPMs, the stakes and thus rewards are greater. Understanding the quality of a video ad beyond just whether it was viewable is going to be essential for anyone buying media in the near future. Start looking at these expanded metrics now to get ahead of the gamers.

Integral Media Quality Report Q1 2015

Integral Ad Science’s Media Quality Report highlights the state of media quality in global online advertising across display and video inventory. IAS processes hundreds of billions of impressions quarterly and is thus able to analyze the industry on a broad and representative level, across multiple media quality metrics: Brand Risk, Viewability, Ad Fraud, and enhanced video metrics.

Why your mobile in-app ads may never be seen

Brands today have a strong incentive to reach and engage their audience on mobile devices as consumers have enthusiastically embraced mobile technology. Mobile usage has overtaken desktop in terms of time spent online. Many marketers have dedicated substantial portions of their digital advertising budget to this rapidly growing channel. In-app advertising presents a unique opportunity to capture a consumer's attention. However, there are instances when consumers don't see the mobile-app ads that marketers purchase. The online advertising industry must wake up to this and gain a better understanding of why in-app ads are not reaching their audience. First, let me explain why this is happening. Mobile app developers offer their apps at little or no cost to consumers in order to spur adoption. To accomplish this adoption goal, they rely on in-app advertising to monetize their apps. It's a win-win-win scenario for the developer, their customers, as well as the brands that are interested in reaching these audiences. Read more here.

The top challenges to ‘watch’ out for in wearable advertising

Wearables, such as the recently released Apple Watch, offer an opportunity for brands to reach audiences in a personalized way, offering true one-to-one marketing. While the industry is still in beta for wearables, there are factors that can be examined during these early stages to prepare for when this new opportunity is ready to be fully embraced. Currently, there is uncertainty around the advertising opportunities that will be available through the Apple Watch. Browse any of the Watchkit Apple Developer forums and there is scarce chatter about how to implement advertising from the developers themselves. Despite some companies coming to market with stories of an advertising marketplace for the watch, no one really knows yet. Also, based on developer feedback, it seems no one is actively looking into this possibility right now either. One thing is clear: wearables will become essential to any brand looking to build on their relationships with their pre-installed app user base. As an example, Apple's 'Taptic Engine' is central to the Apple Watch experience. These are the subtle alerts and vibrations generated by the apps themselves. Read more here.

With two sides to the viewability equation, discrepancies persist

Now that the MRC has defined that for a digital display ad to be viewable, half of the creative must be in view for at least one second, advertisers want to transact their media buys on the metric. Consumers, they argue, won’t convert if they never see an ad.

Publishers are also interested in transacting based on viewability. Advertisers now demand it, and many publishers hope advertisers will pay more for impressions that are in view.

Yet many wonder why discrepancies occur when the MRC definition seems so straightforward. Different vendors for advertisers and publishers often report different viewability rates. There are also time and location components to viewability: Advertisers are more effective at measuring the time aspect, while publishers are better suited to measuring the location of an ad. 

Discrepancies occur because viewability is often measured from one of two places: the advertiser’s ad server or the publisher’s ad server. Each implementation confronts limitations that affect measurement, which in turn, affect the reported viewability and measurement rates.

When viewability is measured on the buy side, the viewability solution sits with the advertiser’s ad server. Since the ad server is responsible for serving each and every creative, it’s very easy to know exactly when to start the viewability clock and determine when the creative is rendered for at least one full second.

But due to ad environment challenges, like unfriendly, cross-domain iFrames, advertisers can’t measure every ad unit in every environment, which means some percentage of ad impressions is simply unmeasurable. If a vendor reports that 60% of the ads were in view, with a 70% measured rate, what value do the remaining 30% have? The 70% rate must be extrapolated for the entire campaign, which can lead to confusion for both sides. 

Meanwhile, the publisher’s viewability solution is also integrated with its ad server. Since publishers are measuring fully owned inventory and not dealing with foreign ad environments, they have no difficulty determining whether the location of an ad unit is in view. Put another way, publishers can reliably determine the location of all ad units throughout their web properties virtually 100% of the time. 

What they can’t do, however, is measure the time an ad creative loads with the same level of certainty of advertiser-side technologies. Publishers know the exact moment an ad container loads, but that’s not the same as the actual creative, where rich media and video ads often take a longer time to render or start to play. I’ve seen discrepancies between times reach up to 20%. While 200 milliseconds may seem insignificant, when the goal is merely one second in view, it’s a huge difference, and one that will certainly have an impact on the overall viewability count.

Clearly, the current dual system of measuring viewability leaves too much room for disagreement and opens the door to mistrust. What’s needed is a measurement number that both sides can trust, and until that happens, transacting on viewability will be fraught with contention.

Digital trading: why advertisers need to think beyond viewability

Advertisers, you’ve looked at your campaigns and increased your viewability rates by applying pre-bid targeting segments for viewability, and you’ve ensured to block for ad fraud. Congratulations! Your digital ad spend will already be more effective. However, even a campaign with excellent viewability can be compromised by problems, such as unsavoury images, numerous ad units and inappropriate content. To run the most effective campaigns, advertisers and their agencies need to think beyond viewability and address the following issues as well.

Is the page safe for your brand?

Imagine this, you are planning to promote your summer, swimwear collection.  You rest easy at night knowing the campaign parameters set ensure for premium, quality placement, such as, for your luxury line. The viewability rates are excellent. There’s one major problem—the ads end up running alongside an article titled, 'Don’t be a Prune: Sun, Skin and Wrinkles' – will this inspire the reader to buy a bikini? Probably not. Surrounding context matters. If it is misaligned to a brand’s image, then both the campaign and brand’s reputation can suffer. The risk of ad misplacement is higher when buying impressions on exchanges and networks, where an estimated 13.7 per cent of placements could be adjacent to damaging content,such as adult themes, bad language or illegal downloads. Ensuring a brand safe environment for online advertising requires a nuanced approach. An environment that is considered ‘unsafe’ for one brand might be ideal for another. A wholesome baby food brand will not want its ads on a page about craft beer but a retailer that sells clothing, like novelty t-shirts, certainly will!

Ads, ads Everywhere

An ad can be deemed viewable, but how effective is it if surrounded by a dozen others? A website crammed with too many adverts can damage both the user’s experience and the ad’s ability to stand out. We’ve all done it; when browsing on your favourite news site, you scroll to the bottom and see a link to, 'Top 10 Celebrity Disasters', cautiously you look over your shoulder; no one is around to see you; you click to satiate your curiosity. The problem is, the page is so packed with ads that the browser slows to a crawl and it interrupts the flow of what you wanted to read. The slowly rendering slideshow of catastrophes is not worth the increasing wait. After a few seconds – long enough for ads to be registered as viewable – click – you close the window. The ad is fraud free.  It’s technically viewable. And so too are those twelve other ads which were on the page. Too many ads and a cumbersome page is an ineffective placement for any advertiser.

Location, location, (pretty) location

Whether the real estate is bricks-and-mortar or digital, good location is critical. In digital advertising, not all placements are created equal. To ensure campaigns are most effective, advertisers should monitor placement in addition to viewability. A video ad that plays in a side banner is less noticeable than one that appears front and centre. However, a good placement also depends on the page design. An unattractive site might be less effective, especially when advertising is clumsy. For most brands, a premier placement on a poor quality page could potentially damage the brand image, as a viewer may judge a brand as guilty by association.

It’s more than meets the eye

The recent focus on viewability and non-human activity is helping raise awareness to ensure digital advertising spend is not wasted. These key issues are today a focus for trade bodies such as the IAB and ABC. They are providing industry-recognised verification standards and accreditation that assure advertisers that they are receiving transparency and control over the quality of their digital ad campaigns However, it takes more than viewability to make an impact on consumers. With all the effort that goes into the creative process and selecting the right audience, ensuring the ads run on quality media is vital to a successful campaign.  Advertisers should fully consider every element of online media quality when planning a campaign. Read more here.

Three viewability misconceptions every media buyer and publisher should know

Viewability has been a hot topic for good reason; advertisers are keen to use the metric as a currency in all their media buys. However an ad, no matter how creative or catchy, cannot sway consumers if consumers have no chance to see it. Consider this, recent Integral Ad Science research found that only 41.8 percent of ads sourced from networks and exchanges were viewable. Direct publisher deals fared a little better with 52.8 percent of impressions viewable. What is viewability exactly? Per the MRC, ads are considered viewable when 50 percent of a creative is in view for at least one full second. That seems straight forward, yet there are still many misconceptions.

Misconception 1: Measurability and viewability are the same thing.

When publishers and ad-tech providers talk about viewability, the term ‘measurability’ is sure to surface. Why? Because if you want to measure the percentage of impressions that are in view, you first need to know that size of the impression pool. Measurability is the percentage of the ads that can be measured in the first place, while viewability is the percentage of measured ads that are deemed viewable. Here’s why this is important. Let’s say that a publisher tells you that its viewability rate is 56 percent but its measurability rate is just 70 percent. Do you assume that the unmeasured 30 percent has the same viewability rate? And what if another publisher says its viewability rate is 52 percent but that its measurability rate is 95 percent. As an advertiser, which publisher do you choose for your campaign? It’s important to understand both measurability and viewability.

Misconception 2: All viewable ads have the same level of quality.

The MRC’s baseline standard says that 50 percent of an ad’s creative must be in view for one full second. But is that enough time to capture a consumer’s attention? Are ads that are in view for 15 seconds more valuable? And are ads where 100 percent of the creative is in view more valuable than those where only 50 percent is seen? Are viewable ads on a low-quality blog worth the same as viewable ads on a premium site? Just because an ad is viewable doesn’t mean it is worth the same as other viewable ads. Viewability is just the beginning of truly understanding the value of an ad.

Misconception 3: A high viewability rate means a great vendor.

It’s a common thought that a high viewability rate means a vendor is measuring well. However, a high viewability rate may not always be what it seems. Fraud has a big impact. Measuring viewability only works if you take fraud out of the equation. If you’re not, you could still be buying or selling ads that have not been seen. In order for our industry to use viewability as a currency in a responsible manner, we must all understand the risks, challenges, and points of confusion.

ADEXCHANGER – CleanAds I/O: Ad Fraud: Beyond Botnets Over the past couple of years, the industry has gradually awakened to the reality of widespread bot activity defrauding advertisers and devaluing inventory. Solutions have sprung up focused on hunting down and stopping these botnets, but ad fraud does not stop there. Jason Shaw, head of the Integral Ad Science Anti-Fraud Lab, explores ad fraud beyond botnets, and discusses how to prevent susceptibility in the future.