In the prehistoric era of digital media, life was simple, but there was no automation.
Building a digital media plan was straightforward: identify your audience, and buy from sites with the best reach among that audience. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a media plan that didn’t involve some sort of automation. And while the process is much more efficient, it’s also less transparent than it used to be, which can lead brands to wonder what exactly is going into their digital media plan.
Any ad server, creative agency, or publisher who is not working on an automated campaign that demonstrates integrity — for their client or the client’s end customer, who should not be pestered with irrelevant ads or overwhelmed by repeated experiences.
So who can advertisers and agencies trust to reliably run their digital campaigns?
There are a number of certified measurement partners who can help advertisers establish whether their campaigns have the chance to be seen by their intended audience. The IAB and MRC have both adopted new guidelines to help advertisers determine the standards to which their campaigns should be held: the MRC defines a viewable display impression as one where at least half of the ad is in view for at least one second (video requires at least 2 seconds on screen), and the IAB suggests that publishers should be able to guarantee a 70% viewability rate for measured impressions.
In addition to working with an MRC-accredited measurement specialist, there are steps advertisers can take to ensure the integrity of their media spend.
Asking the following questions of all partners involved in running a digital campaign:
- What are the current policies and procedures that relate to the identification of non-human traffic?
- Is the business proactively subscribing to information available through the IAB and others to identify Bot Activity? Is it implemented into their technology platform?
- Is Bot Activity reporting available? Are they prepared to share that information and work through Reporting Discrepancies where Ad Fraud may be the main culprit?
- Do they have strategic relationships with companies who specifically identify and combat Ad Fraud?
While most solutions related to viewability and verification focus on media, creative decisions also contribute to the fight against fraud. By building units that are meaningful, with plenty of opportunities for user engagement, creative teams can provide clues regarding the quality of the media: if exciting ads earn unusually low interaction rates, it may be a sign that they were never seen by a person.
Additionally, picking the right ad server is essential, because ad servers are the glue that hold these campaigns together, receiving creative assets, running across sites, cooperating with third-party measurement providers, and reporting on all of it. It is the ad server’s responsibility to make it easy for viewability and verification partners to participate in the measurement process, and to serve as an unbiased arbiter of the entire campaign.
Brands should establish where their media is running and then follow-up and make sure it actually ends up showing up there. That sounds a little basic, but it’s a crucial step in the fight against online ad fraud. (It’s part of a longer journey to running and measuring an effective, multi-screen digital campaign.)
They must also remember that strong creative design, accurate reporting, and efficient campaign management are all requirements of a great execution. Without those components, an automated campaign can end up being a huge waste of time and money.