With the holiday season in full swing, many advertisers have included RTB programs on their media plans. It is our responsibility as the agency to ensure that these budgets not only drive revenue and conversions, but that dollars are spent in the most effective way possible.
A study that was released last week brings light to an issue we have been aware of for years and has become one of the quintessential industry “buzzwords” – viewability. The study was conducted reviewing ad impressions from both Google and their ad serving platform, DoubleClick, using many large advertisers. The study reveals that nearly half (56.1 percent to be exact) of all display impressions are never seen by the user. Another study from comScore reports a similar result with 46 percent of ads being deemed non-viewable.
What is the likely cause of this:
- Below the fold ads have been known to result in lower performance and visibility as around 60 percent are never even seen by the user.
- When users scroll very quickly down a page, it will usually count the impression as not viewed. This comes to play a lot with video ads.
- And the most controversial topic – non-human traffic or bots. A recent study by the Association of National Advertisers found that roughly 17 percent of programmatic display traffic is fraud. Looking a little closer, 67 percent of non-human traffic came from bots being triggered on users computers who were logged into programs like Google, Social Media or Amazon. Since these bots can act much like a real user, they can be difficult to detect.
In regards to what we have seen up until now, overall placement cost tend to normalize in order to account for the bad traffic. So if only 1 out of every 2 creatives are actually seen, then that media will account for 50% of the pricing. Things that may affect this “normalization” are currently flawed attribution resulting in poor visibility and reporting of actual success as well as the current issue around transparency (sorry, another buzzword) within trading desks. In the latter case, the media cost you think you’re paying may not be the actual media cost and perceived “high quality” inventory may actually be “low quality” inventory with a high propensity for viewability issues and fraud.
What we can do:
- Carefully monitor display campaigns and utilize fraud detection technology – many DSPs either partner or have developed their own automated fraud protection that is applied to every campaign. This detection will look for suspicious behavior on both the impression and click level. By also being diligent and diving into the weeds of campaign reporting, campaign managers catch red flags, usually an extremely high CTR, and can adjust settings to block this activity.
- Many DSPs include an option to target above the fold inventory only. Google also has an Active View campaign setting in which advertisers only pay for viewed impressions. Although limiting overall impression scale, these options ensure that all served impressions qualify as viewable.
- Review what is being considered viewable. Most fraud detection and viewability studies will use the IAB standards for what they count as viewable. As you are reviewing viewability, take in to account what standards are being used. There are many factors to take in consideration, browser size , pixel space, time requirements, etc.
It is safe to say that the release of this study has increased awareness of the issue and will only prompt more conversations about the future. As a result, we predict to see a surge in funds for fraud prevention technology development as we will see an increase in demand for this protection among advertisers. As a result, we can hope that incremental cost for protection technology should decrease with the lift in industry demand.