Sophie Chen
Feb 20, 2013

Online ad viewability: Experts see progress in region

ASIA PACIFIC – As many as four out of 10 online ads go unviewed in Asia, but industry groups, technology providers and media owners recognize the problem and are beginning to address it, according to media insiders.

Source: ComScore’s vCE Charter Study for Asia
Source: ComScore’s vCE Charter Study for Asia

A ComScore report last August found that the average in-view rate in the region was 58 per cent. In other words, about four out of every 10 ads weren’t seen by anyone.

“The size of the problem varies from market to market, but it’s usually worse where digital is less developed and there are fewer guidelines on publishing,” Matt Drury, head of interaction for global solutions at MEC Singapore, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

The ComScore study looked at 10 campaigns across 329,000 sites from six leading marketers, including P&G, Johnson & Johnson, American Express, Starwood, Unilever and Wrigley. The level of viewability in Asia was slightly lower than in the US (69 per cent), Europe (67 per cent) and Canada (65 per cent).

Data points such as those, as well as horror stories about websites that purposely place large numbers of ads "below the fold", continue to shake advertiser confidence in the digital medium, according to Michael Robertson, group director of media for Effective Measure.

“The problem is being caused by intense competitive pressure to grow digital revenue as a replacement from rapidly dwindling revenue from other traditional mediums,” he said. “Rapid growth in websites and inventory in addition to the shift in spend and activity to agency trading desks, ad networks, demand-side platforms and ad exchanges are causing a surge of an almost unlimited supply of ad impressions for any campaign. Unfortunately, most of that is below the fold or could not be classified as viewable.”

Lack of awareness on the part of some clients in the region allows some media owners to "get away with" shady practices, according to Drury. “Any decent media agency will notice that these sorts of units aren’t yielding results and pull them from the plan if they have a solid KPI in place,” he added.

Although there is a long way to go, a maturation process is well underway. “The media owner world has realised that it needs to both deliver the content and provide a convincing client story as part of their product,” said Drury.

Robertson agreed that there are positive signs. “The number of ads per page exploded over recent years, but we are now experiencing a trend across major publishers where quality of impact is more important than quantity,” he said. “Brands and advertisers are trying to influence publishers to create the kinds of placements that they want, and that work for them.”

The Making Measurement Make Sense initiative (known as '3MS'), introduced by the IAB, the ANA and the 4As, advocates, among other principles, a change from a 'served' to a 'viewable' standard for impressions. The organization also has a timeline that specifies the industry will have broadly adopted digital GRPs by April of this year.

Robertson said that a VCPM (Visible Cost Per Thousand) or GRP-style model will represent the next level of efficient and effective online planning, buying and reporting.

“Avoiding irrelevant advertisements during the pre-bid or pre-serve process may be a better solution as it improves the efficiency of the entire digital advertising stack,” he said. “This approach would work for RTB and guaranteed placements alike and would still ensure that ads display in safe and viewable environments for brands.”

Among technology companies seeking to be part of the solution, DoubleVerify and Kantar have launched Ad VRF, which combines viewability, verification and behaviour-based audience segments to enable brands to pinpoint exactly who is being reached with their media campaigns.

Drury also suggested that technologies like the dashboard offered by Adagoo and ComScroe's vCE (validated Campaign Essentials) will reveal ‘below the fold’ shadiness across ad networks and publishers. E-commerce may also prove to be a driver for change, as poor-responding ad units would be removed through survival of the fittest on a cost per action (CPA) basis, he added.

Viewability awareness and solutions also exist in the video realm. For example, Adap.tv has launched Certified Viewability, which can verify the viewability of video ads in real-time and blocks impressions that do not appear to the user.

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