We must demand a higher standard of quality for online advertising
As an industry, we need to create baseline criteria to combat fraud and support an ad-supported internet.
We enjoy an ad-supported internet based on fair value exchange. Consumers incur virtually zero cost for consuming content like text, video or apps in exchange for seeing an online promotion from brands. While we’ve seen the natural ebb and flow of consumers exerting power over their online experience – in the form of ad blocking or removing cookies, for example – the fact remains that content producers must be compensated for the utility they provide. Either brands will subsidize the content continually produced and consumed online, or consumers will. For the current paradigm to continue, online advertising must perform. Every player in the ecosystem has a stake in making sure it does just that. Consider the consequences if advertising were suddenly to disappear; we’d be looking at paywalls and micropayments that would gate consumer access to content.
For online advertising to work, baseline criteria for quality must be met. These criteria are captured in impressions that are collectively fraud-free, viewable and brand-safe across all advertising environments – including walled gardens. They must authenticate media quality as well as qualify purchased impressions in terms of their potential to drive outcomes. Any inventory that fails to comply with this higher standard is compromised in its ability to power campaign performance. The result is inefficiency and waste for the brand.
Many brands have solutions in place to measure their digital advertising effectiveness. DSPs, for example, offer fraud-free guarantees or segments that target properties and placements characterized by high viewability in the past. However, the industry should demand a more stringent quality standard – for every impression that is transacted. This more stringent standard would meet all of the following core criteria:
- The ad is fully viewed
- The ad is viewed by a real person
- The ad appears in a brand-safe environment
Let’s consider for a moment the magnitude of issues that brands face today that impede quality ad delivery.
Display ad viewability in 2018 was at 56% and video ad viewability at 63% in 2018. While viewability numbers for display and video ads have risen year-on-year, viewability is clearly an industry problem, as it remains below the 70% threshold established by the IAB. On the positive side, progress is being made to expand third-party viewability measurement across social platforms, mobile app platforms and OTT/CTV.
The adage holds true – fraud follows the money. The industry has seen a dramatic shift in fraud targeting mobile supply – with a concentration in mobile apps – as well as new schemes targeting emerging inventory types, such as CTV.
Brand reputation has become a cornerstone concern for digital advertisers – with brand safety incidents making headlines throughout 2018 and into the new year. A recent Verizon Media study found that 99% of advertisers are concerned about brand safety. Brand safety violations increased by 25% in 2018 – with spikes of up to 50% following major news coverage of violence. Fake news is 70% more likely to be shared than genuine news articles and, over the last year, the volume of content classified as extreme violence and hate speech nearly tripled.
It’s not enough to deal with the knotty problems of viewability, fraud and brand safety on an inconsistent or siloed basis. Transacting industry-wide based on impressions that collectively meet ALL of these criteria would boost campaign efficiency and effectiveness, giving brands clarity and confidence in their digital investment – while simultaneously rewarding quality publishers and content producers with a higher yield. Such a dynamic fosters a sustainable value exchange that not only encourages campaign performance but also preserves the Internet as we know it. Let’s build a better industry.