By Peter Black
Sr. Vice President, Business Development
Two of the biggest issues facing the online advertising market today are inextricably linked: viewability and fraud. Here’s the latest proof: Kraft, having spent $35.9 million on digital ads in 2013, recently announced it was rejecting 75-85% of the impressions offered due to concerns over viewability, fraud or unknown quality.
Let’s start with viewability. The metrics for viewable online display and video ads have broad market acceptance and the support of major industry bodies (Media Ratings Council, Interactive Advertising Bureau, etc.). In 2014 the MRC lifted its advisory for both types of ads enabling them to become a currency upon which buyers and sellers trade. Clearly a step in the right direction.
However, the incidence of viewable ads, in my opinion, is strikingly low. Industry averages from multiple sources put viewability at somewhere in the mid-40% range. Our own experience from auditing 3.6 billion display impressions over 120 campaigns in 2013 was that 40% of the ads were viewable. The picture gets a bit dimmer when you consider that some of those “viewable” ads were a result of fraud.
No one really knows the extent of the fraud problem but estimates are a high as $6 billion annually. It has also been estimated that one third of online traffic is fraudulent. That traffic generates a lot of ad impressions! Doing some simple math, one who buys 100 impressions gets 40 viewable and of those one third are fraudulent. That leaves 27 impressions out of 100, or 27%. We have to do better!
Why does the market put up with this? One reason is that many parties in the supply chain realize revenue based on volume so there is little or no incentive to change the status quo. To initiate a change there would have to be a radical shift in mindset to focus on quality rather than quantity. There would need to be an equal ly radical shift in pricing, which could result in higher fees from sellers and better audiences for buyers.
Until these things happen, here are some best practices which may mitigate low viewability and fraud.
- Make viewability a currency for purchasing impressions.
- Ask sellers for independent, third-party verification of impression claims.
- Trust sellers that offer transparency for metrics gathering and reporting.
- Have a general understanding of the methods used for ad verification and fraud detection/prevention.
- Employ technology for fraud detection and prevention.
- Be transparent with buyers in regards to the technology used.
- Allow easy “mid-course corrections” to campaigns which may be encountering low viewability and/or suspected fraud.
- Provide detailed campaign reporting which is actionable.