Are viewability and verification metrics telling us anything we don’t already know? Or, are they reducing the conversation about effective, appropriate, efficient advertising to a binary code?
Viewability and verification metrics have emerged as a leading topic of interest in digital advertising circles this year, for a couple key reasons: measurement is more widely available and credible thanks to MRC endorsement, and the increasing media dollars flowing through programmatic channels are subject to increased scrutiny from brands and agencies.
After the IAB released a statement that a third of all online traffic was not generated by humans, and Vindico reported that less than half of ads served are viewable, some members of the digital advertising community went into a state of panic. Just when we thought we were making inroads on those big, juicy TV dollars, now we’re faced with “a huge threat to our industry,” that, if left unchecked, will erode the trust that we’ve spent years earning from advertisers.
While viewability and verification measurements have a lot of value, they still require context. Industry-wide, roadblocks remain for consistent, scalable viewability measurement, namely due to limitations imposed by iframes, unreliability of Safeframe measures, and video issues posed by VAST tags. Neo@Ogilvy’s head of analytics in North America, Randi Cohen, feels that viewability is best suited for branding campaigns, where is can be used to help measure reach, but for DR initiatives, other ROI calculations are more relevant. The whole industry wants a consistent, reliable way to measure viewability for display and video, but even when we get there, viewability will still be just one data point among many.
But viewability is simply insufficient as a measure of campaign success.
Viewability has a role in addressing fraud and inventory quality, but it doesn’t tell you anything that is actionable from the consumer side of the equation. The MRC’s definition of viewability is lacking.
It is a small piece of “a complex formula for calculating the value and effectiveness of any digital media plan.” And assuming that one second of in-view time is enough for an ad to have impact is foolish.
Further criticism comes from the CEO and founder of TripleLift, a native ads platform, who writes in AdAge that the emphasis on fraud and viewability may incentivize publishers to run more “full-page interstitials, pop-ups and site takeovers,” formats with high quality ratings, but when overused, are irritating enough that that even Bill Maher is talking about them.
Naturally, a company like TripleLift sees an opportunity to move away from traditional display and embrace the growth of native. However, we should be talking about the quality of advertising content, not just where it appears on a page, and in what format.
Ultimately, ethical advertising is the goal.
Only when the implicit or real contract between advertiser, publisher and user is respected is an ad able to be truly effective. Viewability and verification are important measures, but must be used in concert with other data; but even then, no amount of measurement is a substitute for exciting creative, executed flawlessly across screens.