SQUEEZE IS ON

Viewa­bil­ity changes and ad-block­ing pres­sure me­dia rev­enues

The Bulletin - - Front Page -

AD­VER­TISER re­fusal to pay for dig­i­tal ads that go un­seen, cou­pled with the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of so-called ad-blocker soft­ware, has in­creased pres­sure on me­dia sec­tor rev­enues.

Lead­ing buyer GroupM has signed ma­jor me­dia houses to guar­an­tees that ad­ver­tis­ers will be charged only for dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing seen by the reader.

Ev­ery dig­i­tal ad must be on screen for at least one sec­ond un­der the agree­ment, which orig­i­nated in the United States and has swept through the Aus­tralian and Cana­dian mar­kets in re­cent weeks.

Rules for video mar­ket­ing are re­ported to be even stricter – the user must press play, at least half the ad’s du­ra­tion must play and the sound must be turned on. Pre-roll or au­to­mated video – the type com­monly seen while scrolling through so­cial me­dia – will have no com­mer­cial value un­der the guar­an­tee.

Fair­fax Me­dia and News Corp Aus­tralia are among the top me­dia play­ers to agree to the deal, ef­fec­tively over­turn- ing a do­mes­tic mar­ket stan­dards agree­ment es­tab­lished by the lo­cal In­ter­ac­tive Ad­ver­tis­ing Bureau (IAB), which had stip­u­lated 50 per cent ex­po­sure – known in the in­dus­try as viewa­bil­ity – was suf­fi­cient.

GroupM, the big­gest me­dia buy­ing agency in the world and part of the WPP con­glom­er­ate that owns me­dia as­sets, ad agen­cies and PR com­pa­nies, has been work­ing to de­velop the rules for the past 18 months. It con­sulted top US ad­ver­tis­ers, me­dia com­pa­nies and stan­dard or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the US Me­dia Rat­ings Coun­cil and an in­dus­try group called Mak­ing Mea­sure­ment Make Sense.

It will use a US-based ver­i­fi­ca­tion com­pany, Moat, to po­lice the stan­dard. Its chief trad­ing of­fi­cer in Canada, Neil John­ston, is quoted as say­ing the is­sue was “al­most more im­por­tant than the rate for place­ments”.

Other me­dia-buy­ing agen­cies are likely to apply the same pres­sure. IPG Me­dia­brands has been run­ning an ini­tia­tive called Pro­ject Qual­ity, which is aimed at cre­at­ing trans­parency of ex­po­sure across in­di­vid­ual web­sites and ad­ver­tis­ing ex­changes.

A fur­ther con­cern for me­dia agen­cies has been the pro­lif­er­a­tion of so-called bots, which mimic au­di­ence en­gage­ment and cor­rupt re­ports on how many times a dig­i­tal ad­ver­tise­ment has been seen.

A third front con­fronting news pub­lish­ers is the ris­ing use of ad block­ing, which has gained ad­di­tional trac­tion fol­low­ing sup­port for block­ing soft­ware on the lat­est iPhone.

The US me­dia watcher and con­sul­tancy, Nie­manLab, re­cently ran a snap poll of news con­sumers on Twit­ter and found 50 per cent use ad block­ing soft­ware.

Ac­cord­ing to PageFair – an or­gan­i­sa­tion that sur­veys ad block­ing in part­ner­ship with Adobe – use of ad-block­ers rose 41 per cent for the year to June, 2015. It es­ti­mated there were 198 mil­lion users glob­ally and the eco­nomic cost could be as high as $US21.8 bil­lion.

A cam­paign to en­cour­age ad­ver­tis­ers to im­prove the qual­ity of their ad­ver­tis­ing, and con­se­quently dis­suade users from block­ing ads, is be­ing waged by WAN-Ifra, the global news­pa­per body.

Its re­cent ac­tion day in Ger­many re­vealed 86 per cent of those who block ads are male, al­most one-third of those who de­ploy the soft­ware fear mal­ware within the ad, and half are aged 50-plus.

Its goal to di­min­ish the im­pact of ad-block­ing by im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ad­ver­tis­ing is sup­ported by an­other global in­dus­try body, INMA (the International News Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion). Its pres­i­dent, Mark Challi­nor, told The Bul­letin: “We can’t keep do­ing the same things and ex­pect­ing ac­cep­tance, espe­cially in a new dig­i­tal age. Mil­len­ni­als are grow­ing up with a bar raised much higher than their par­ents ex­pe­ri­enced in terms of what they can ex­pect from the world around them – in­clud­ing ad­ver­tis­ing and pub­lish­ing.”

Mr Challi­nor said there was a “need for ev­ery­one in the chain to en­hance the mes­sag­ing and pro­vide bet­ter qual­ity cre­ative that was en­gag­ing and val­ued”.

“If we all want con­sumers to see and value our ads, we need to show some re­spect for what they re­quire and give them ads that are rel­e­vant, cre­ative and in­ter­est­ing – not in­tru­sive.”

The views of INMA and WAN-Ifra do not go un­chal­lenged by scep­tics of this phi­los­o­phy. Mo­bile ex­pert David Murphy, ed­i­tor of Mo­bile Mar­ket­ing Magazine in the UK, said the “ge­nie is out of the bot­tle – con­sumers know they can block ads”.

The CEO of The News­pa­per Works, Mark Hol­lands, said pub­lish­ers risked com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ships if they were seen to be too high-handed. “We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing and ex­pen­sive tus­sle be­tween the user ex­pe­ri­ence and the com- mer­cial im­per­a­tive to mon­e­tise dig­i­tal au­di­ences.

“Telling clients to make bet­ter ads or else will not win friends. I don’t see a sit­u­a­tion where a mar­ket-stan­dard ad will be re­fused by any pub­lisher on the prin­ci­ple we’re talk­ing about.”

Sev­eral me­dia com­pa­nies have al­ready ex­e­cuted strate­gies to thwart ad-block­ers.

Ya­hoo! stops users ac­cess­ing their email ac­count un­til their ad-blocker is re­moved, The

Washington Post and CNet ter­mi­nate con­tent de­liv­ery while oth­ers scram­ble the ty­pog­ra­phy so the site is im­pos­si­ble to read.

Wired has just launched a $3.99-a-week sub­scrip­tion to a site that prom­ises to be free of ads.

At Fair­fax Me­dia, its push into con­tent mar­ket­ing is seen as one of sev­eral strate­gies to ease pres­sure on met­rics while meet­ing client needs.

Si­mon Smith, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor the com­pany’s con­tent mar­ket­ing stu­dio MADE, said: “We are go­ing hard at pro­duc­ing good qual­ity con­tent for clients. That should res­onate well with au­di­ences and avoid is­sues such as ad block­ing. It’s not a sil­ver bul­let but it will cer­tainly help.”

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