InSkin Media

One million impressions, zero eyeballs: viewability uncovered

The ad has had the vast number of impressions bought - but has anyone actually seen it? How can you be so sure and what's that assurance actually worth? Steve Doyle, CCO of InSkin Media asks...

One million impressions, zero eyeballs: viewability uncovered

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Viewability is becoming the essential metric for brands – yet how can you test it with any trust? Who do you believe when different measurers' results vary by up to 80% across the same campaigns? This is the challenge facing all brands...

Brands need confidence their ads are seen, particularly as awareness and investment in digital brand-advertising rises. It's clear that discrepancies are rife: the technology measuring these metrics is under scrutiny, and audit measurements are changing.

It was this that led InSkin to test several campaigns with a selection of leading viewability measurement vendors. The results differed from a staggering 5% to 85%.

In the beginning...
As supply of digital inventory ballooned in the late noughties, advertising was cheap. Really cheap. It became easier to run large DR campaigns – buying billions of ad impressions for pence. This heralded the rise of the ad network – high volumes but without great results.

Indiscriminate run­-of-­network advertising saw publishers’ earnings diminish but they realised, by adding more ad units to the page, they could improve their yield. Cheap advertising created a double­-headed monster – less scrupulous publishers delivered ever more inventory – in an environment where ad fraud thrived – devaluing further online advertising.

Now the industry understands this cheap inventory was below the fold, barely seen, and the IAB is working with the industry to weed out irregular practices, to set viewability standards.

At the IAB Viewability Council, the politics is interesting (many have much to lose), as the council attempts to turn around a tanker at unrealistic speed. IAB standards deal only with identifying impressions that have no chance to be seen, then weeding out non­-viewable ‘impressions’.

They are at a starting point. The challenge is the incongruence between the Measurement debate (‘Could the ad be seen?’) and the Trading debate (‘I only want topay for an ad >x% in­view’). Viewability makes trading easier; uniformity is essential for common measurement across all advertising.

The metric and the value
Advertisers must understand not all impressions, engagements and interactions are equal. At ISM we have broad challenges around viewablility – vendors measuring non-standard, high ­impact units – a subject we will discuss in depth at our Seminar at dmexco.

One potential solution is an open-­source approach for viewability, to overcome issues of inconsistency (multiple vendors/different methodologies = confusing discrepancies inimpression counts) and incompleteness (current measurements don’t work for large, non-standard rich­media).

It is vital to overcome the "gatekeeper" debate around viewability, to reinforce investment in online branding. Traditional branding is shifting away from TV and print, into digital. We need to help advertisers navigate this shift quickly and simply. If successful, budgets will flow more readily from offline to online.

Viewability, transparency, trust and meaningful measurement

Steve speaks on a panel at dmexco on "Viewability – transparency, trust and meaningful measurement", led by Dominic Finney, Founder and Director of FaR Partners.

The panel also includes experts from MediaCom, CBS Interactive and Moat to discuss the obstacles and opportunities of online ad viewability. Seminar is on Thursday, 17 September at 10am, Seminar 2, 2nd floor, Congress Centre North. You can also visit InSkin Media's stand in Hall 7, Stand A046 A048 at dmexco