07/07 By Niall Hogan

UK | ISBA: 100% viewability – an impossible dream?

The Cannes Lions Festival has just taken place and, for the largest gathering of advertising creatives, media buyers and ad tech providers in one location, it’s seen as the summer event of the advertising year.

One of the speakers who stood out for me at this year’s festival was the venerable Keith Weed, Chief Marketing Officer at Unilever who talked about the task of fostering engagement between people and brands, so much so that people want to share them with others. His speech focused on the ideas of trust and transformation.

My interest was piqued when, during his presentation, he turned his attention to issues around media quality in online advertising, focusing in on viewability and fraud – some press reports described it as a rant, but I saw it as a frustration. These are not new issues; the online advertising industry in the UK saw these debates start to bubble up last year, but this year advertisers have only just started to see the topics creeping higher up the agenda.

An ad can be deemed viewable, by the IAB (50% of ad in view for at least one second) 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. Even a campaign with excellent viewability can be compromised by problems, such as unsavoury images, numerous ad units and inappropriate content.

At the ISBA Annual Conference in March, I was surprised to learn that many attendees were not aware of viewability and fraud issues. And if marketers had heard of the topics, they were unclear what the industry was doing to address it.

Advertisers rely on their media agencies and technology providers to keep them up to date; and I see that now the knowledge gap is closing. Indeed, Unilever and Shell have been vocal in demanding they will only pay for 100% viewability of their online advertising. As an industry we are working towards building a better online environment for advertisers to ensure more meaningful engagement with consumers. Media quality must improve in order to ensure future investment from brands in the channel.

According to our research at the end of last year, 69% of media buyers and suppliers state that media quality is a top priority in their organisation, with ad fraud (89%) and viewability (86%) at the top of the list.

The recent focus on viewability and non-human traffic or ad fraud, is helping raise awareness to ensure digital advertising spend is more efficient. These issues are key topics for trade bodies such as the IAB and ABC, and 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.

To run the most effective campaigns, advertisers need to think beyond viewability and address brand safety as well as fraud. Intrinsically linked, we believe online media quality is the key.