In 2013 alone, $2.8 billion was spent on digital video advertising. It’s a significant investment, and one that continues to grow exponentially. Online video investment is increasing at a double-digit pace, and spending is projected to top $8 billion by 2016.*
However, according to data from Vindico’s Adtricity system, only 34 percent of digital video ads rate as ‘high quality.’** In addition, fifty-seven percent of two billion video ads did not have the opportunity to be seen (‘unviewable’) over a recent two-month period. These are not new and surprising findings, however what is shocking is that the advertising industry does not have a consistent standard or approach in how to deal with existing viewability and fraud issues.
Digital advertising continues to growth at a steady rate.. This trend spells new opportunities to advertisers and agencies alike, and it can mean dollar signs for publishers. But with this growth in spending comes a startling increase in wasted spending through bad actors and fraudulent activity that leads to misrepresented and inaccurate viewability. Brands continue to unknowingly place advertisements on sites that simply hide the ad in 1x1 pixels or behind banners, counting the ad impression even though human eyes never had the opportunity to actually see the ad.
Who is responsible for an ad’s viewability? I would argue that it is up to all parties in the ad lifecycle – advertisers, agencies, publishers, technology vendors, exchanges, SSPs and ad servers – to conduct due diligence and implement processes to deter fraudulent activity. Brands are responsible for directing where their content runs, and agencies, as always, must have their clients (the advertisers’) best interest in mind. Publishers, exchanges and SSPs must take ownership and hold themselves accountable for providing transparent, viewable, high-quality inventory in order to also truly have their clients’ best interests in mind.
The sheer volume and diversity of ad inventory may make adopting broad industry standards a daunting task, but with more than 1.5 billion advertising dollars being wasted every year, the time for change is now. Parties on both sides of the equation have been afforded the same tools; this industry can work collectively to move the needle on this issue.
The first step in successfully putting industry standards and regulations in place comes with understanding where viewability sits in the context of quality video impressions, and thus the health of the larger ecosystem of advertising. As of April 2014, the MRC deems a video ad viewable if 50% of it is in view for two continuous seconds. Ads may not meet this requirement for a multitude of reasons – auto-initiated functionalities, iframe stacking, incorrect placement on a site, running in a browser tab or window that is not actively monitored, etc. Both buyers and sellers need to identify the reasons ads were not viewable and consistently measure viewability down to the impression level.
To ensure a TV-like quality viewing experience, an advertiser’s viewability solution needs to also encompass verification measures. Impressions that are generated by fake traffic, bogus publishers or invisible web visitors present an additional dilemma. Video traffic fraud is incredibly dangerous to the digital advertising industry because impressions and engagement are essentially the industry’s currency. How can advertisers trust the value of an ad buy if a substantial portion of the views are non-human or bot traffic? Consistent measurement between the buy and sell-side is an instrumental piece of that trust and the first step toward true accountability and transparency.
This is the issue at the core of viewability, therefore jeopardizing the manner in which we justify ad spend. However, illuminating the lack of measurement standards and increasing impact of fraud in the industry enables us to reevaluate our counter-measures and turn them into preemptive measures, before the buy.
Improving Measurement & Reporting
As we look to improve measurement and reporting, the following characteristics are important to consider in a solution:
• Scale. Advertisers should consider solutions that are tied to an ad-serving platform that is able to provide real-time, actionable insights in order to reduce complexities related to viewability and engagement reporting.
• Comprehensive Solution. Viewability is a critical piece of the picture when it comes to ensuring quality inventory but advertisers should be conscious of selecting a viewability solution that also includes measurement of overall traffic, ad execution, and content adjacency in order to guarantee they are getting what they are paying for. All too often advertisers are paying for viewable impressions generated from bot or non-human traffic. A comprehensive solution must account for the environment and execution of an ad impression.
• Flexibility. A viewability measurement platform needs to be nimble and malleable in order to keep up with the ever-changing market standards. Group M recently announced that they will be requiring vendors and publishers to adhere to a more stringent viewability requirement for their campaigns (100% of ad in-view for at least 50% of the duration). Your viewability solution must be able to keep up with the fluid marketplace demands.
Viewability is a must-have metric that will define the quality of digital and video ad campaigns for years to come; transparency is key in ensuring trust in the digital space. The online advertising market won’t live up to its full potential if we can’t prove that it works, and it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can to maintain its promising value by identifying quality impressions, reducing wasted dollars, and increasing the viewability and transparency of digital ad placement and performance.
*This data came from eMarketer’s 2013 Global Media Intelligence Report.
**This data came from Vindico’s Adtricity 2013 Annual Report.