Photo: Exit Through The Gift Shop
The web advertising industry is amazing. It is quite possibly the only industry where innovation can actually create more confusion, set back progress and defy logic.Take viewability for instance. We recognised a challenge in getting brand dollars from traditional media and instead of looking at the reasons why TV continues to dominate brand spend, we shot from the hip and said “brands need validation that their ads are seen!”
Who cares that the ads suck, are less engaging and are certainly not very impactful to the consumer? Nope… let’s create yet another reporting metric to add to our 15MB Excel spreadsheet, create a larger discrepancy, and cause more confusion for the client. In theory, validating that your ad was viewed makes total sense. Who doesn’t want their ad to be seen? But there are a host of challenges/issues that come along for the ride.
The elephant in the room for me (and addressed recently in AdExchanger) is: what do we do with unviewed or, worse yet, unmeasured impressions?
An unviewed impression is an impression that is delivered to a web page and counted by an ad server but does not appear within the viewable frame of the browser. For example, if an ad is delivered to a blog in the second or third article on the page, there is a chance, a very good chance, that that impression will be ‘seen’ but is just not visible on the initial load of the page.
In the case of an unmeasured impression, the ad is delivered to the page and counted but because the third party vendor, like MOAT or comScore, is not able to determine the position of the ad on the page, it is rendered unmeasurable. This happens due to many unfortunate technical limitations within the browser such as iframes, ajax, browser type/version, etc. These unmeasured impressions simply get qualified as unviewable even if they were valid impressions and even if the consumer engaged with them.
Now what makes this even crazier is that marketers are getting shafted by vendors and media companies. We collectively use a number of methods to track conversions, to remarket, to capture audience data and such. When companies cookie consumers when they are delivered an ad that has not been viewed should those media outlets get credit for down-stream actions? This creates a completely new level of segmentation that marketers need to be concerned with.
Also, if viewability causes a shift in media value where unviewable, unmeasurable impressions are valued far less, that creates a potentially large pool of super cheap inventory that networks, remarketers and direct response agencies could use to cookie bomb and get false credit for last view attribution. This cheap inventory also could be used to scrape audience data from large segments of the population with very little cost. If the inventory has little value, I would argue that the publisher should remove it entirely from their site in order to slow or stop this seemingly fraudulent activity.
Many predict that nearly 40% of all inventory on the Internet is either unviewable or unmeasurable. That is a big number of ads and represents a massive economic impact if that inventory were to evaporate. What else can we do about unviewable impressions? I certainly don’t want to see inventory abused to benefit only a small few, thereby putting our industry further into a tailspin. How do we stay true to a brand’s goals and ensure that our inventory is a cut above? What do you think?
The views expressed here reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 24/7 Media, its affiliates, subsidiaries or its parent company, WPP plc.
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