Most advertisers today are going in blind and getting deceived in online advertising. Amid the rise of programmatic online media buys, somehow transparency has deftly managed to slip through the cracks.
Brands and agencies at a recent Digiday event were asked to identify their single largest concern regarding online advertising. Once all votes were in, ad fraud and viewability emerged as the top industry issues keeping execs up at night.
With bots, suspect placements, and cost-transparency issues looming large, heads of digital are beginning to take a closer look at exactly where, when, and what their agencies and ad tech partners are running in their ad placements.
The opacity of the online advertising industry hasn't been adequately scrutinized until now. New technology in the form of placement quality monitoring and video-by-video location databases is beginning to force the realization among advertisers that the somewhat sketchy way things have been so far may not be the way they'll always have to be.
As an advertiser, you have the right to know where your ads are running, whom you're reaching, and how much you're paying. You need clear reporting that boils down to the KPIs that matter for your business.
What you don't need is a "trusted" ad partner charging you an arm and a leg for display ads running at 4 AM in countries where you don't do business or for ads that never get seen anywhere.
Moreover, Google's first-ever ad viewability report [PDF] revealed that 56% of online display ads are never actually seen by consumers. Are you 100% certain that you're getting all the views you're currently paying for?
Who ultimately is responsible for ridding the online ad market of deception and disappointment?
Here's what advertisers should at least consider as they continue to shift media budgets online and search for the perfect technology partner.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) may define viewability as a minimum of 50% of pixels showing for at least one-to-two seconds, but that doesn't mean you have to. If a 60% video view-to-completion rate is important to you, communicate that KPI to your agency or ad tech partner.
Don't be afraid to get specific about what metrics represent success for your business. The more clearly you lay out what you want at the beginning, the more likely you are to actually get it in the end.
Money talk can be tough, but unfortunately, it's up to you to ask how much margin your agency or ad tech provider is making from each media buy. Paying a small percentage to ensure top-quality service, premium inventory, and continual campaign optimization is one thing. Getting practically robbed is quite another.
Finding the One
The same principle should be applied when serving your ad to relevant audiences online. Not all views are created equal, and your ad tech partner needs to spend your ad dollars targeting the right type of consumers for your brand.
Most people wouldn't feel comfortable paying for a lackluster meal at a Michelin star-rated restaurant. Make it clear that you are not willing to pay for low-quality or wildly off-target views either.
Asking political questions may be taboo in most social situations, but having a conversation with your ad tech partner about precisely where your ads are running online needs to become the norm.
Google's 2014 ad-viewability report notes that above the fold placements have a 68% viewability rate, while below the fold ads have a 40% rate. If your partner can't produce a site-by-site or video-by-video list of placements, it's time to break off the relationship and find someone who can.
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The worldwide media-buying arm of WPP, Group M, has forecast that 50% of the UK's ad market will be digital in 2015. So, make sure you understand where your ads are running, who they're reaching, and what you're paying for.
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