The recent Media Quality Report from Integral Ad Science (IAS) highlights the current state of media quality in online advertising. The H2 2016 report analyses trends in viewability, online brand safety risk and rates of ad fraud in not only the UK, but also five other major advertising markets globally. To provide this analysis, IAS processes trillions of impressions every half year in order to analyse the industry on a broad and representative level, across multiple media quality metrics. The aim of the report, is to help readers better understand their ability to invest in digital advertising and with greater confidence.
The H2 2016 report includes new analysis and findings that help to highlight the current state of the digital advertising industry in the UK and beyond. For the latest report, the inclusion or both optimised and non-optimised ad fraud campaign data (comparing campaigns that used ad fraud prevention technology, to those that did not) has revealed key insights into the impact of fraud across the digital advertising ecosystem.
The introduction of both optimised and non-optimised ad fraud campaign data highlighted a stark difference between campaigns using ad fraud prevention and those that did not. The findings show that ad fraud overall has increased since the last IAS report in H1 2016. Aligned to this, ad fraud found on non-optimised impressions sourced via programmatic buys experienced the largest increase in fraudulent activity, reaching 4.9% compared to 3.2 % in H1 2016; a 53% increase. However, ad fraud activity decreased for impressions sourced via publisher direct buys, falling to 1% in H2 compared to 1.0% in H1. Due to the nature of programmatic buying – it’s automation, efficiency and less human eyeballs means the environment can be more easily gamed by fraudsters – this result is to be expected as publisher direct buys inherently pose less risk than programmatic.
Additional key insights from the report show website homepages attract higher rates of ad fraud; 88% higher fraudulent activity was detected on homepages than on article-specific pages. Furthermore, the risk of ad fraud increases in the early hours, it begins to climb at midnight, peaks at 04:00 , and then declines slowly until it reaches a steady level at 08:00 and for the remainder of the day.
The H2 2016 report also shows that viewability decreased from 57% to 49.9% when compared to H1 2016. The main impact of this decrease was seen in programmatic buys, where viewability rates decreased from 57% in H1 to 46.8% in H2. On the other hand, viewability on impressions sourced via publishers direct remained steady from 62% in H1 62.9% in H2. This increase may in part due to higher volumes of campaigns being placed via programmatic channels, and also in part due to the recent work from many publishers to reduce the number of ads on a page and increase viewability performance across their inventory.
Brand safety is the only category in which both publisher and programmatic results fared similarly. Overall, the number of impressions flagged as posing a significant risk to a brand’s image or reputation decreased from 7.8% in H1 to 6.8 in H2. When looking at impressions sourced via programmatic channels, the decrease was from 8.0% in H1 to 6.9% in H2. Similarly publisher direct impressions, saw a decrease to brand risk from 6.7% in H1 to 5.8% in H2. Although brand safety risk decreased on both channels, with the advent of fake news and the increase in violent and extremist content, brand safety remains a critical issue for publishers and advertisers, underscoring the need for verification to protect brand reputations online.
Most notably from the latest report is the improvement in quality of video. For the H2 2016 report, IAS sampled over 6 billion video impressions across direct and programmatic channels. The report highlights that video viewability experienced significant improvement compared to the first half of the year, increasing overall from 40.0% of video impressions being in view, to 58.2% in view. This find highlights that for the first time video is outperforming desktop display for viewability. Still, advertisers and publishers need to keep a close watch on their video campaigns as the higher video CPMs makes the medium more susceptible to fraudsters. In the H2 2016 IAS saw that ad fraud levels in video impressions sourced via programmatic channels could reach as high as 26.5%.
With the rise in discussions around brand safety, fake news, and ad fraud, marketers need to demand greater transparency into their digital advertising campaigns. The recent press headlines have increased awareness of these challenges in digital, highlighted clear areas where improvement is required, and reinforced that the context of an advertisement is key. Everyone in the digital advertising industry, from publisher, to advertiser, to technology provider, has a duty of care to address the latest brand safety and ad fraud issues. We would encourage all to do their part and use third party verification technology to gain greater insight and true transparency into digital advertising performance.