Apr 29 2013
Basis Technologies

How ‘Viewable’ is Your Digital Ad Inventory?


As I was thinking about how we (Centro) can help publishers solidify the quality of inventory, I came across a story on the IAB’s task force to guard against non-human traffic and fictitious publishers. It’s clear that there are market concerns over the legitimacy and value of the inventory that brand marketers are purchasing. Advertisers are getting more digitally savvy, and as they increase their digital budgets, they’re itching for more guarantees and more accountability. Now, the process of standardizing metrics and guaranteeing viewable impressions may not eradicate the bots, but it certainly is a start.

Eric Franchi of Undertone wrote in AdExchanger recently that companies in the space should take the viewability debate seriously, suggesting that it’s only a matter of time until the viewable impression becomes standard. Franchi suggested that publishers should begin to “work with vendors who can help you understand your universe of inventory, make an effort to educate both internally and externally, and create a roadmap for the eventual viewable impression standard.” I could not agree more. I would argue that publishers willing to put the work in now will position themselves far ahead of their counterparts when the day of standardization finally arrives. The early bird gets the worm, if you will.  Publishers should be working closely with the technology companies available to test and better understand their inventory. There are several sound vendors out there — comScoreDoubleVerifyRealVuC3Metrics, to name just a few.

That said, publishers can and should be doing more than just testing. They should be looking at ways to better optimize their sites to increase their percentage of viewable inventory. eMarketer put out an article, “Viewability Metric Favors Persistent Rich Media Formats,” that explored the impact of rich media formats and the research suggested that they tend to be the most viewable. However, running more rich media units isn’t the only option.

Centro has a lot of energy surrounding this topic. In speaking with a colleague, Centro Brand Exchange VP of Operations Jennifer Schaen, her advice was that we “should be encouraging our partners to start thinking about and planning for site optimization. It will only put them in a favorable position as it relates to viewable impressions.” So let’s put our “guaranteed viewability” thinking caps on. With the right mix of testing and innovation, publishers can take control and actually create more viewable inventory.

Viewability Through Site Design

In early 2012, Yahoo launched a visualization tool that offers insights from their C.O.R.E. (Content Optimization and Relevance Engine) algorithm. Based on this tool, content is selected for display on Yahoo properties (how stories should be ordered, dependent on each user, etc.). It’s genius, but it’s not just for portals!

Look at the philly.com site redesign. By learning about the viewing trends of their audience, they revamped their website based on a similar content optimization model. Depending on the time of day, the content modules will shift to support the type of content their audience is most hungry for in that given time period. Imagine the impact this will have on their ability to garner viewable impressions. I suspect that by shifting the content based on user preferences and trends of their consumption, sites will see an increase in the percentage of viewable inventory on their site. This kind of site redesign will likely lead to an increase in CPMs and revenue share.

Even the naysayers believe the viewability debate is an important one. On Econsultancy.com, Doug Conely of Exponential suggests that viewability isn’t where it should be from a standardization perspective and that the industry is not ready to officially coin guaranteed viewability as a metric. However, he adds, “The more we can use this to encourage publisher partners to create web experiences with fewer ads with richer creative options that are more likely to be seen and the more we encourage advertisers to value that then the better the web will be for publishers, advertisers and consumers alike.”

Well, isn’t that grand? What better way to service clients than to do so in a way that benefits us (the publishers) and the clients’ clients (the consumers) at the same time! I couldn’t have said it better myself.