2015: Ad Viewability Finally Grows Up

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When my Alenty co-founder Nicolas Thomas and I “birthed” our viewability start up in 2007,  we were amazed by the potential of this new born creature. One year later, in 2008, the company took its “first steps” when we signed our first clients. After the first steps came time for education – of the industry, that is: the market had to understand that not all ads were viewable! At the same time, our “child” start up continued to grow and evolve in order to adapt to a fast-changing world filled with new technologies,  TLAs (three-letter acronyms), and channels.

In 2013, Alenty “graduated” to become a MRC accredited company and was ready to conquer the world (“A nous deux, Paris !”, like in Balzac’s novel).  Only a few months later, in March 2014, the MRC lifted its advisory on trading on viewable impressions, and Alenty started a life-long partnership with AppNexus.

As we exited 2014, ad viewability faced a new challenge: an IAB report postulated that there is a 30% “margin of error” that needs to be taken into consideration in order to deal with the differences among vendors.

The question on my – and all of my peers’ – mind: was this bad news for ad-viewability?

On the contrary: this news proves that ad-viewability is finally on its way to becoming an “adult” offering in 2015.

The way the IAB applies this margin of error may not be the only one, nor the best. But I’ll come back to this possibility in another post.

Being an adult means that the market now has operational methods to use ad-viewability at scale. Ad-viewability is no longer a teenager’s dream with little realistic background or application. It is a grown-up vision: mature, solid, consistent, and something that has the potential to profoundly change the advertising world.

As we embark on 2015, I believe we finally have the necessary components for the success of a market-wide switch to viewable impressions:

  • Standard market guidance: The IAB’s realistic assessment allows ad-buyers and sellers to agree on deals over viewable impressions.
  • Feature integration: Viewability becomes a built-in feature of ad-trading platforms like AppNexus. Traders can now apply the concepts directly in their buying strategy.

With this in mind, I predict the following for ad-viewability in 2015:

  • We will see a rapid growth of deals of viewable impressions. With or without the IAB’s 30% margin of error (see tips below), more and more players will agree on deals that include viewable impressions.
  • Good inventory will get rewarded for its quality. With a lower demand for non-viewable impressions (why buy them when you know they’re non-viewable?), buyers’ advertising budgets will switch towards high quality inventory.

So, the question is: How will you benefit from these exciting changes in ad-viewability?

  1. Whether you’re an advertiser, agency, trading desk, network, or publisher, you must work with an accredited viewability vendor. The differences among vendors mainly come from the use of different technologies that limit their measurement capabilities. A simpler way to put it: a vendor who can only measure 70% of impressions cannot guarantee more than 70% of viewable impressions. The best combination of technologies is “geometry + browser optimization.” Vendors who only use one technology have a low success rate. See my post http://blog.appnexus.com/2014/what-does-the-mrc-certification-mean/ for more. Alenty / AppNexus technology has one of the highest measurement rates, above 95%, thanks to its hybrid method (geometry + browser optimization) and its adaptation to the mobile web.
  2. When you can, choose the same viewability provider as your client or supplier. In order to reduce the pain of comparing viewability data provided by two vendors, try to use only one from trading. For instance, if you are a trading desk, you can use the AppNexus viewability measurement to count viewable impressions. If you buy on publishers who also use the AppNexus platform, you will get consistent results. AppNexus’ measurement success rate is above 95%. So you only need to take a small margin of error when you target a number of viewable impressions.
  3. When you have to use two different viewability providers, have a close look at their measurement rates. Following the same example as above, if the publishers use another vendor, whose success rate is only 70%, you need to take a 30% margin of error. In this case, the publisher will only count 7 million viewable impressions in order to reach the agreed upon goal.
  4. Train yourself on the concept of cost per viewable impressions. 2015 is said to be a transition year in which the market will shift towards viewable impressions. Even though the IAB now recommends billing on served impressions, the ultimate goal is to pay for viewable This means that you will grow accustomed to dividing your media budget by the number of viewable impressions. This way, you will start using VCPM (Cost Per Mille Viewable impressions).
  5. Optimize on viewable impressions. In the scope of such agreements, both parties (buyer and seller) will start optimizing on viewable impressions.
    The result of this will be a global improvement in the quality of online inventory. This may be the best news for this new year!

Happy 2015!

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