The State of Viewability: A Year in Review
Sarah WarnerMay 15, 2015
Over the last year, GroupM has implemented an industry-leading approach to Viewability. As a result, there has been a significant shift in how we buy and optimize media.
In May of 2014, I reviewed the risks and challenges associated with pricing, performance, and profitability as they relate to Viewability. One year later, I would love to tell you that these challenges no longer exist, but that just wouldn’t be the truth. That being said, many players in the industry have approached these challenges head-on and have lived to tell the story. This post will be a ‘State of the Union’ of sorts, to touch on where we have been, where we are today, and what we still have left to tackle.
In last year’s post, I warned that as we transition to buying on Viewability, managing client expectations will be the most important piece. This has not changed today. Every client has different goals, media mixes, and varying acceptance levels of change. It is our responsibility to understand the implications that will come with Viewability across pricing and performance and prepare our clients accordingly.
When it comes to pricing, Xaxis and GroupM have adjusted trading agreements to transact on Viewability. By making Viewability the priority in negotiations, we have seen a shift in pricing, but we feel that this shift has long-term benefits. We are already seeing top publishers re-design sites to improve Viewability, often removing below-the-fold supply entirely. By focusing on premium, highly viewable supply, we have also seen a dip in non-human traffic activity. Premium publishers have likely felt a short-term hit to profit margins, but I feel that they will see long-term benefits from buyers cleaning up inventory buying and deprioritizing cheap, but low-value supply.
This brings me to performance. Unfortunately, the cheap supply I referenced above traditionally drove strong view-through performance as defined by attribution systems. Thus, we need to reset clients’ performance expectations accordingly. Xaxis did a study, and on one advertiser, we found that 36% of attributed view-through conversions came from ads that were never in-view, based on last touch attribution models. What does this mean?
Currently, the attribution system for clients is usually either the third-party ad server or a third-party attribution platform, none of which have integrated with Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify, or MOAT. Because of this, Viewability is currently not a data point when assigning credit for a conversion. In this same study, we also found that in-view rate is negatively correlated to view-through conversion rate. However, there is a positive correlation to in-view rate and post-click conversions. This means that Viewability can still help with performance. In fact, a recent comScore release reported that Kellogg’s saw a 75% increase in sales lift by increasing Viewability rates by 40%. The problem is that we, as an industry, are not set up to quantify or even measure how much Viewability can help. If anything, current systems deem Viewability as a negative driver of performance.
So a year in, what have we learned? Viewability is complex. It was, is, and will continue to be until preferred technology partners perfect their own technology and integrate with other platforms to tell the whole story. Despite the complexity and technology gaps, an ad not seen has no value to our clients. We will continue to work closely with our preferred partners to continue to lead the charge on a fully viewable digital landscape.