Research released by comScore last month indicates that less than 50 per cent of all online display ads are now being viewed on a global level. In the UK, where viewability levels rank amongst the lowest in the world, both the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have in recent years declared ‘viewability’ to be a top priority.
And it’s not just display. In the US, video advertising specialist, Tremor, recently gained accreditation from the Media Ratings Council (MRC) for its measurement of viewable video ad impressions and related viewability metrics. Fellow advertising platform, Exponential, has gone a step further still, creating a new online video advertising pricing model that combines Cost per View (CPM) with Cost per Engagement (CPE), switching to the latter when people begin to interact. Everywhere you look around the industry, companies are taking steps to try and reassure advertisers that ads are being seen.
In early April this year, Forbes.com launched a new article page to a small sector of its audience as a test. These changes complement adjustments that were made by Forbes.com last year, including progressive ad loading. In short, this summer the Company is methodically and incrementally rolling out site-wide adjustments, which will allow it to pay closer attention to user and advertiser behaviour and make necessary updates to reflect consumption habits, i.e. place those ads into view.
I spoke to Charles Yardley, managing director international, and publisher of Forbes Life at Forbes Media, to find out exactly how widespread improvements to Forbes.com viewability are being made.
You’re currently in the process of updating the Forbes.com site to improve viewability. How and why?
“We’re focused on continuing to evolve and improve the user experience on Forbes.com, while keeping in mind the advertising marketplace moving into the world of in-view impressions. In 2012, we partnered with MOAT, Forbes’ ad verification partner, which has been providing us with data to enable us to transact on viewability.”
“This data has informed our approach. MOAT measures every ad on Forbes.com looking at viewability, engagement and attention metrics. With more online advertisers including viewability in their demands for accountability from publishers, it’s important to have a partner that is deeply embedded in your site and is able to measure impressions across all devices to get the full picture of the value of the ads you’re selling. The market now expects that all publishers know the value of their inventory and are working to price and package that inventory accordingly.”
In an increasingly complex digital arena, do you constantly have to weigh up the value of consumer experience vs. advertiser expectations, impressions vs. shareability, standardisation vs. creativity, etc.?
“Yes, there are many changes afoot, but the differentiating factor is that Forbes has gone through a meaningful transformation of its business across the board. We are fundamentally changing the culture of publishing as we put journalism at the centre of a social media experience. We’re building a sustainable business model for advertising-supported journalism that benefits our staff writers and contributors, our users, etc. and it provides a framework for marketers to successfully communicate with our audience.”
“Viewability is an extremely important issue, but equally important for publishers is the constant challenges and changes in mobile, social and technology. We’ve been prepared for viewability and have spent a lot of time and are working to improve tracking and data.”
Just how big an issue is viewability for the industry in general right now and are media owners – even social networks like Facebook and Twitter – doing enough to clean up the issue of only invoicing for ads that are actually seen?
“It’s all encompassing and closely monitored within Forbes. I’m sure the same goes for any publishing media platform. At the moment, all parties, be it technology vendors, publishers or advertisers, are trying to evaluate the differing recommendations and standards that are being discussed. It seems we have a long way to go before all parties can agree and align around one standard metric.”
Finally, we tend to think of viewability being an ‘on-page’ problem, but with the growing use of video, this is surely a consideration for ads served through video content as well?
“Yes, video is an important consideration. Over the last year, Forbes has worked closely with the video ad platform company Teads and its In Read video player to test this area. The learnings have been useful and we’re evolving our website to offer the best consumer and viewability experience possible.”
In many ways, the Internet’s ability to provide rich media analytics has made a rod for its own back in terms of accountability. The question of ad visibility is as old as advertising itself: Was my ad seen? Did the reader turn to that particular page? How many TV viewers got up and made coffee during the ad break? Can anyone ever really comprehensively know? The Internet’s growing ability to track user behaviour has led many to the expectation that it can. And as growing expectation leads to growing demands, Forbes.com’s view that the industry is moving towards a world of in-view impressions is a valid one. Add into the mix ad blocking software, non-human traffic, programmatic trust issues and it’s easy to see why accountability is becoming key.
The good news is that online media owners are supremely placed above all other forms of media to be able to deliver this level of accountability, and as online audiences grow increasingly at scale too. The very metrics that are currently being held up against publishers are ultimately the ones that will be harvested and used to prove the validity – and the visibility – of online advertising. One thing for certain is that audiences are moving increasingly online, and advertisers still need to reach those audiences. With familiar brands and premium content environments, publishers already hold strong relationships with consumers. By adding viewability metrics to those eyeballs for their advertisers, publishers look well placed to deliver trust – and ROI – in an increasingly online media.
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