Measurability in premium display advertising has been a grey area for the last few years, making the discipline seem less accountable than other digital marketing channels. Early this year comScore reported that 31% of online ads go unseen but still get counted in the overall impression score. This has caused a bit of a stir amongst advertisers, publishers and clients. How can we be reporting on X number of impressions, assuming an impression is seen, when this is 30% inaccurate?
Of course display media remains a hugely beneficial tactic in the world of digital marketing, particularly when it comes to generating brand awareness. We and our clients, however, need to be able to clearly understand, absorb and benefit from the results. The primary question comes down to defining what an impression is and whether, in its current form, it really is the best way of reporting on display ads.
It seems the current calculation of served impressions is problematic. With reports such as the one from comScore mentioned earlier being released, it seems an impression no longer means that a user has necessarily seen your ad. Due to the fact that you pay on CPM basis, you are being charged for impressions that are not actually there. This has led the industry to begin gravitating towards a new definition of impressions, one that shifts from “served” being the main measure to “viewable” being its replacement.
The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) is promoting and enforcing this new measurement system, called viewable impressions, which will have a wide range of positives and negatives for advertisers.
Viewable Impressions - Triumphs And Challenges
Firstly, reporting will be more reliable and trustworthy as advertisers can make better decisions on where and how they book their ads. This will hopefully result in more exciting work, which will be delivered more quickly and more tactfully than we have seen before. This equally benefits clients, who can supposedly lower their advertising cost by not paying for ads which are never seen, meaning an instantaneous improvement on ROI. This will certainly provide all parties with clearer, more definitive results that will benefit both sides.
However, there are a few challenges:
- The actual factor to determine exactly what a viewable impression is, remains undefined. This is due to the fact that it is undecided how long an ad has to be visible for, to be termed as a viewable impression. The IAB has proposed that an ad must be viewable for more than one second, but this is not confirmed.
- For now this metric has only been suggested for display advertising, but other formats like video ads will most probably follow the same path.
- Before it becomes an accepted metric in the industry, the technology that will ultimately be calculating the number of viewable impressions will need to be perfect. There can be no room for error, which will ultimately see companies being overcharged.
- Finally, we should remember that comScore’s results may not be 100% accurate. Their results are based on tests run on 12 established brands, and it doesn’t take smaller businesses and sites into account.
It’ll be extremely interesting to watch how this is rolled out by the industry and how quickly companies adopt it. For now it seems that there is not much of a rush to switch, especially from agencies that could see a drop in their client’s budgets as they get more value for money. However, over time it will most certainly benefit all parties, as booked media sales take a step away from inaccurate results and a step closer to a cost per unit basis.
What are your thoughts on the positives or negatives of this new system?