by Andrew Casale (VP Strategy)
As publisher sites continue to grow and fill all available page space with ads to the point that some resemble NASCAR cars, media buyers and planners have a reason to be overwhelmed. As I walked around the floor at ad-tech this week, I heard countless times the startling statistic that for real-time bidding (RTB) alone, the demand side has to sort through over half a million queries per second (QPS). The sheer volume of RTB impressions means buyers simply cannot consider all of the intricacies of individual impressions, and there’s no time to consider the environments in which they exist. An impression is an impression is an impression, and unfortunately, buying purely based on impressions is a lose-lose situation for publishers and advertisers.
While audience data is frequently leveraged in the exchange environment to improve campaign performance, this data alone cannot alleviate the impression volume issue. Understanding an ad’s environments – whether it exists above or below the fold, how many ads appear on an individual site, etc. – changes the game for buyers. This level of transparency is important for optimizing campaigns and reducing waste and can become a powerful new input for demand side platform (DSP) bidding strategies. In the RTB realm, exposing impressions that are not viewable on a page from the QPS count could equate to roughly 30-40 percent of ALL impressions. The result is a much more reasonable number of impressions for buyers to sort through. With this smaller pool of impressions, buyers can get even more granular with campaigns.
To the dismay of publishers, though, there are simply more ads online than will ever be budgeted. During the IAB’s Leadership Meeting, comScore CEO Dr. Magid Abraham emphasized the need for creating “digital scarcity” in order to preserve the impact and economics of advertising online. Reorganizing QPS by introducing a viewable impression standard does not mean less spending; it just means spending more in the right environments. If you’re simply buying impressions, there’s no guarantee your audience will see your ads – it’s a moving target. If you can start to add environmental understanding into the equation, campaigns become increasingly predictable, and there’s less waste. This transition, though, depends on managing the volume of appropriate impressions—on creating that digital scarcity. Spending in the appropriate environments is a win for publishers and with less volume to manage, the buy side is guaranteed more predictable results.
What will it take for viewable impressions to become a standard? In my mind, it will come from an agreed upon definition for viewable impressions. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has started this effort with its 3M “Making Measurement Make Sense” initiative, in which the first principle suggests that the industry shifts from measuring served impressions to viewable impressions. As soon as the industry can agree on a definition for viewable impressions, actually implementing the standard might be as simple as one exchange and one demand side platform gaining traction with the model and watching the trend balloon from there. I have no doubt that as soon as this model of buying becomes available, it will quickly be the preferred model, mimicking the rapid adoption rate to RTB. The entire implementation hinges on the demand side’s push to make this initiative move forward. The viewable impression standard would allow less media to go to waste, which simultaneously benefits advertisers and the entire online community.