“Over the last few years there have been some doubts raised over the quality of certain inventory, especially when it comes to new ways of buying audiences through ad networks and biddable platforms.”
Ryan Murdoch, head of data and analytics at Starcom MENA, talks ad viewability.
Digital investment has seen a meteoric rise in the past decade for obvious reasons, especially in the MENA region with the ability to be fully accountable and measurable. However, over the last few years there have been some doubts raised over the quality of certain inventory, especially when it comes to new ways of buying audiences through ad networks and biddable platforms.
This has resulted in ‘ ad viewability’ becoming one of the biggest buzzwords thrown around the digital industry in the past few years, and for good reason. With the advent of new technology that enables us to track and measure which ads have the ability to be viewed, we are working closely with clients and publishers to drive better accountability from digital advertising.
Ad viewability refers specifically to the viewing of a digital ad impression by an online user. The general assumption is that every impression counted is an impression seen. However, as a result of the way in which digital advertisements are distributed, there is a large number of ads that are not seen, and the number is significant.
So what qualifies for a viewable impression? Although actively debated within the industry, the arbitrary standard is that the ad is at least 50 per cent viewable for a minimum of one second, as defined by the ‘Making Measurement Make Sense’ (3MS) initiative. Global studies have shown that typically anywhere between 40 and 60 per cent of ads bought are not actually seen by online users. Most of these can be classified as lessthan-premium network and biddable buys, in which media planners and buyers have had less control over the placement of their ads in exchange for more efficient rates.
Ad viewability discussions have been well-documented elsewhere but Publicis Media set out to create the first comprehensive study conducted in the Middle East. The goal was not only to understand the scale of the issue but also put in place a programme that supports transparency and value for our clients in the region.
Over the past two years, we have analysed billions of impressions across a huge number of campaigns and publishers with a range of results when it comes to site performance measured against ad viewability. This has enabled us to not only look at specific publisher performance but also understand any industry trends that are happening across the MENA region. We typically look at it through three lenses: across publisher vertical, site level and performance over time.
Unsurprisingly, certain types of sites perform better than others. We classified sites into four groups: global publishers, regional publishers, biddable platforms and networks; and what we see is a sliding scale in terms of performance. Over the last 24 months, there has been a marked improvement from biddable platforms and regional publishers with both having a 10 to 12 per cent percentage points increase in ad viewability from 2014 to 2016 (YTD). In the case of biddable platforms, this can be partially attributed to the ability to now exclusively pay for inventory that is 100 per cent viewable. However, this comes at a premium. We are also working closely with key publishers to drive the agenda using ad viewability on measurement whereby we can now evaluate publisher performance on a new scale to provide even greater value to our clients.
While we have seen a marked improvement over the last two years in the MENA region, to really see a steep change in performance it heavily relies on publishers in terms of how they construct and sell advertising on their website to mitigate against non-viewable formats.
A great example of this is The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, which has become the first media owner to offer advertisers the possibility of 100 per cent viewable ads on its site. This works by having a single advert appear on the righthand side of branded content pages, replacing all commercial placements on the righthand rail with a single rotating sticky advert. As users scroll down a page, the campaign remains visible as the content changes.
It’s clear from the analysis that there is still some work to be done across the industry but it’s fair to say that the MENA region no longer lags behind our global counterparts when it comes to ad viewability.