Inside the mind of the advertiser, presented by Dave Marquard
Will viewability measurement become the next click-through rate?
All Views Are Not EqualIf 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 FraudThe 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 ViewabilitySo 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.
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With two sides to the viewability equation, discrepancies persist
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.