Four Simple Questions to Make Advertising Better for Us All
The volume of writing on the themes of invalid traffic (IVT), ad viewability and associated threats to digital advertising demonstrates clear desire within the industry to tackle these topics.
Amongst the statistics and scare stories, there still appears to be a lack of clarity on solutions, with so many vendors and technologies at play.
Putting corporate motivations and specific products aside for a moment, I firmly believe the quality of advertising (and the motivation for publishers to focus on providing valuable inventory) could be dramatically improved if advertisers asked the following simple questions.
While the issues themselves may be relatively new and complex, the underlying marketing objectives have existed for quite some time.
These four topics remain relevant however inventory is purchased, directly from publishers or via exchanges.
Is my ad going to a human?
IVT – ads not delivered to humans – is a uniquely digital consideration that immediately wastes money at source.
If advertisers cannot be sure that their ads are going to real people, they are potentially handing over their budgets to fraudsters, and in the process skewing optimisation and performance measurements. Removing IVT impressions allows genuine, clean impressions to show their true performance.
Fortunately, the technology to detect IVT has developed at a rapid pace to match the increasingly sophisticated bots, spiders, domain laundering and browser hijacks that threaten campaign effectiveness.
The net result is increased ROI if brands invest in tools as robust as the fraudsters are determined, and move towards a model where the only impressions covered by their budgets are those which reach a genuine human.
It is important to note that while IVT is uniquely digital, wastage is not uncommon in TV and print advertising; we are just able to measure it in digital.
Did my ad have a chance to be seen?
Giving your creative an opportunity to get in front of a consumer’s eyes has long been a KPI for advertisers across all media.
In digital specifically, it has become increasingly clear that an ad ‘delivered’ does not equate to it having been seen. Even after IVT is removed, some ads are simply not ‘viewable’ (the Media Rating Council in the US defines ‘viewable’ as 50% of the ad’s pixels being visible for over one second), and therefore do not represent effective spend.
Again the tools exist, but a key challenge is managing discrepancies between what each one measures.
Is IVT removed before viewability is calculated? Is the tool measuring all open browser windows or just the one on top? Can it spot ads served outside of the viewable window or multiple ads stacked on top of each other?
Stringently-reported viewability combined with the removal of IVT means advertisers are measuring only impressions which had the potential to deliver impact on consumers. This should be the baseline requirement, facilitating a more reliable assessment of other aspects of campaign performance.
Did my ad go to the people I wanted to reach?
As ‘the most measurable medium’, expectations of targeting in digital are perhaps higher than elsewhere. But precision should also be met with realistic expectations and thorough measurement.
For similar reasons to viewability, it is important to remove IVT before judging effectiveness, particularly fraud based on realistic human profiles which have zero chance of becoming customers.
Evaluating targeting then ideally involves a secondary source that does not rely on the same cookies or data used to deliver it. On a more positive note, so long as they avoid IVT, impressions which fall out of target still have an opportunity to be effective.
Lastly, getting a better understanding of targeted reach means that you can then begin to optimise your campaigns for improvement in the future.
Was my ad surrounded by suitable content?
The definition of a ‘safe’ environment is subjective from brand to brand, with a range extending from usual suspects such as pornography, violence and racial hatred to more subtle issues such as automotive ads appearing in news stories about motoring accidents.
As well as mitigating legitimate (but potentially damaging) errors, issues such as domain hijacking or the masking of URLs (where it appears that an ad is going to a safe environment but in reality, it is not) require sophisticated fraud detection, especially with complex media buys or during rapid programmatic trading.
Having made the preceding steps to ensure that an ad has the chance to be seen, it is the marketing equivalent of falling at the final hurdle to have creatives spotted in undesirable locations.
Finding the simplicity and value in clean impressions
In an area of the industry which is even more prone to statistics and jargon, there is still room for simple questions.
Addressing these in isolation is a step in the right direction, but true benefit comes when a single source can combine them all to deliver ‘verified impressions’ – an unduplicated and validated measure of ‘clean’ impressions that had the chance to do their job.
By asking the right questions and setting clear expectations, this can be a positive process for all parties that improves advertising efficiency, campaign effectiveness and rewards truly valuable impressions.