Impression quality is a major concern in the ad industry. How major? Last year, Kraft Foods went on the record saying it works with partners like Turn to reject 75% to 80% of digital ad impressions in part because of ad impression quality.
Though Kraft is ahead of the curve for having taken such a hard line, plenty of marketers are justly concerned they are likely paying for ads which aren’t being seen. While there will never be one silver bullet that resolves every quality issue, the problem can be mitigated dramatically if the industry works towards a common set of solutions that address not only technology but also consumer behavior. Here’s a quick list of several key areas that need to be addressed.
The first comes from the publisher and their relationship with the consumer. With ad blocking, the consumer is expressing a preference for their advertising experience. In this case, the onus is on publishers to explain that advertising serves a purpose and is in effect subsidizing the content. The Washington Post is one of many publishers who have recently begun making this relationship explicit. If you visit washingtonpost.com, the site tells you to turn off your ad blocker if you want to view the content. In Europe, an equivalent model has been successfully deployed for compliance with consumer privacy opt-in regulations: there, “cookie walls” give a similar message and instruct readers to opt-in to accept cookies (and by extension, tracking for ad-based targeting) if they want to have access to the content. This gives the consumer an informed choice and an appreciation for the advertiser. It’s a simple model and it works.
A second onus on publishers is viewability. Most marketers have embraced viewability as the quantitative measure of quality, and here publishers have begun to improve quality by rethinking content design. We now live in a mobile-first world where content is frequently displayed in ways that weren’t initially anticipated, and while publishers have started to embrace mobile they need to aggressively optimize the user experience with viewability in mind. Fears about cannibalizing ad revenue are understandable but likely to be short-lived, as the adoption of viewability metrics ensure marketers will continue ramping down the CPMs and budgets allocated to low quality inventory. Smart publishers are getting ahead of the issue while others are at risk of getting run over by it.
Another way to improve quality is to weed out the vendors in the supply chain who aren’t IAB certified and thus don’t necessarily adhere to standards for the consumer experience and overall quality control. The IAB’s new L.E.A.N. initiative is a great step in the right direction. Ultimately marketers need to demand a platinum coating for the links in the chain and make sure each is certified. Standards are a powerful way of going after bad actors who pretend they’re a legitimate publisher (when they’re not), an actual human (when it’s really a bot), or a trusted vendor working in the marketer’s best interest (when they’re only working to their own interest). This is a hornet’s nest of issues that will require standards, enforcement and the marketer’s willingness to be diligent in evaluating their supply chain to address.
Accepting that no solution is 100% is also a necessary step for the industry. In other types of advertising, like TV and print, we all acknowledge that there will be times an ad doesn’t reach the intended user – the TV viewer heads to the kitchen for a beer, hits mute, or time-shifts to skip an ad completely. In digital, the potential for measurability has created an artificial expectation of full accountability. The truth is you’re never going to eliminate all of the issues of concern. What we need to do is get to a manageable and appropriate level of impressions so that, for instance, if a publisher claims 1 million viewable, quality impressions and the advertiser claims 990,000 then we can arrive at a happy medium that won’t waste everyone’s energy.
As this list demonstrates, there’s no easy answer to this challenge. We have to attack it on several fronts to affect real change. There’s too much at stake though to accept the status quo. That’s why marketers, publishers and ad tech companies can only solve the problem by working together.
Founded in 2005, Amobee is an advertising platform that understands how people consume content. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for advertisers and media companies, while providing a better consumer experience. Through our platform, we help customers further their audience development, optimize their cross channel performance across all TV, connected TV, and digital media, and drive new customer growth through detailed analytics and reporting. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singtel, one of the largest communications technology companies in the world.
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