OMD Exec On Viewability: ‘If You Pay For It, You Should Get It’

ShainaBooneProfIOSFShaina Boone will discuss viewability, fraud and supply chain issues on April 14 at PROGRAMMATIC.IO in San Francisco.

Talking about fraud and viewability is one thing – but “actually managing it is an entire program,” said Shaina Boone, managing director of marketing sciences at OMD USA, where she helms the analytics practice.

Managing advertiser expectations is particularly challenging. The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 70% threshold is a good example. In December 2014, the IAB declared that while 100% viewability isn’t yet technically feasible, the industry should be able to attain 70% viewability on measured impressions.

“The IAB says the viewability target is 70%, but the reality is that it’s more like 50%, and that causes some stress between us and the client,” Boone said. “It’s just not achievable in many cases.”

Advertisers also don’t take too kindly to being asked to pay more for viewable impressions.

“Publishers that want to comply with viewability can just make everything more expensive – which is actually closer to what the price should have been in the first place,” Boone said. “In essence, advertisers have been getting a discount this whole time – but if you want premium inventory, the price is going to go up.”

AdExchanger caught up with Boone to talk about the tangled web that viewability compliance weaves.

AdExchanger: Does programmatic pose any viewability challenges?

SHAINA BOONE: Probably only about 50% of the programmatic media we’re running ends up being measurable by our viewability and fraud tools. Display isn’t a problem, but we had to switch video ad servers to get better viewability. You’re only getting a slice of the truth.

Then how do you know what’s going on?

Well, you don’t. The whole industry is built on the fact that everyone is taking a cut from everyone else, and that creates holes and opportunities for people to take advantage of a complicated system. The landscape of content is so vast that you can’t monitor it all to know whether people are being truthful.

What are some rules of thumb for choosing a viewability vendor?

Honestly, a big part of the evaluation comes down to the way their salespeople handle themselves and how they talk to us about how their technology works. If they’re too covert or secretive about it, we have to eliminate them.

Another critical part is their blocking capability – that’s how we calculate the ROI of the tool. We know how much we’re spending on the tool and how much impressions cost, so the number of ads a tool can block in a pre-bid environment shows us the return on investment.

What goes into implementing a viewability solution?

It’s not out of the box. We’ve actually created an implementation checklist and our vendor provides us with quite a bit of support. Really, it’s more about getting the publishers to agree to place the tags in the first place. That’s where there can be resistance, and in other countries even more so. In China, for example, we can’t get even half of the publishers to agree to place the tags.

How do you woo publishers?

The initial step is writing the RFP to include viewability or fraud standards and benchmarks, which is a whole ordeal unto itself. Then we negotiate. If they don’t like the targets we want to hit, they can decide not to work with us. There is a tension in setting up the partnership.

When they agree, we proceed with the implementation and, as with anything, it’s yet another tag that we’re adding to all sorts of different pieces of media that in many cases aren’t even measurable. We have particular trouble with mobile.

Is the industry ready to tackle mobile viewability?

I don’t think so. We’re still barely doing it well on the desktop side. There are so many problems with mobile in general. For one, a lot of the clicks that are happening are accidental – fat thumbs – and just the screen size alone screws everything up.

Back to publishers, it seems like they’re getting the short end of the stick. They’re required to integrate with whatever vendor the advertiser demands and they’re held responsible for reconciling and makegoods.

It’s unfortunate that they’re the guys that keep getting kicked, but you could also say that they’ve been complacent all along and didn’t fix anything proactively. It’s not as if they haven’t been aware of this.

What’s your take on the transparency issues that triggered last year’s spate of media reviews?

You don’t buy a car and get half the car. If you pay for it, you should get it. It’s not, “We’re sorry, but the wheels aren’t included in this model.” The only way things might change is if people start to get audited and fined. But changing the infrastructure of an industry is a gigantic undertaking. There are some very large challenges ahead.

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  1. Talking about “taking a cut” and “taking advantage of a situation” and “being truthful” is rich coming from a media agency! The ending of this article reads like “it’s all someone else’s fault” when IMHO it clearly is not – things like click fraud and viewability issues are the direct result of media agencies using the wrong / vanity metrics and looking easy-wins years ago.

    Overall it feels like you’re advocating advertisers should buy based on viewability and it’s the publisher’s responsibility to deliver that or pay a ‘fine’. That is a VERY slippery slope and assume that means you didn’t learn the lessons of agencies pushing clients to buy on CPC metrics and the ‘ever so small’ click-fraud sub-industry that grew up as a direct result (that I’m sure you’re now paying someone else to report on and manage for your clients).

    Easiest way for publishers to generate guaranteed high viewability is place all the ads at the top of a page and load them first in the script. Makes for a pretty poor user experience though…

    I have to say I fundamentally disagree with other things you’re saying here and I feel it gives the wrong advice for people who turn to this type of article for direction and any form of ‘best practice’ to follow.

    For example: ”…we calculate the ROI of the tool. We know how much we’re spending on the tool and how much impressions cost, so the number of ads a tool can block in a pre-bid environment shows us the return on investment”

    Erm… there is no such thing as “pre-bid ad blocking”. You either block the bid (so no impression to pay for or ad to serve) or you win the bid and and opt block ad delivery (post-bid blocking).

    Assuming you meant the number of bids blocked, I don’t believe any vendor reports on that – it is more of an insurance policy that you won’t be seen on toxic content (I’ll stand corrected if someone confidently names a vendor that delivers reports on the number of bids blocked).

    If you meant post-bid ad blocking then yes, vendors (such as Moat and IAS) will report on that being they have to: the client is being charged for the impressions not delivered.

    So, assuming the latter is what you want to say, I’m surprised you’d use the number of ads blocked as some form of ROI metric for the value of a viewability vendor. They are 2 very different things; I’m assuming you are aware that not all viewability vendors offer their own brand safety solution (Moat, for example) and not all band safety options offer viewability (Grapeshot and Peer39, for example). You sound like you’re interested in broad “ok” solutions such as DV and IAS versus merging 2 specialists to do a better job : Moat + Grapeshot for example.

    Whilst you’re evaluating ‘ROI’ for viewability options on brand safety [again, 2 very different things] I’d be keen to understand why you feel the quality / ‘safety’ of inventory bid on by a DSP platform is anything to do with the viewability / safety vendor you are evaluating. A high or low block rate is more the direct result of your bid strategy, targeting leveraged (audience or contextual) and choice of DSP platform not the safety filtering you choose…

    So the burning question then I guess is “in your ROI calculation, is a high or a low block rate the right answer?”.

    Where do things like language options, customisation opportunities for ad hoc brand safety needs and transparency of information come into your ‘ROI’ calculation?

  2. Pity the poor advertisers and good publishers out there that are part of this approach.

    At the highest level, measures such as viewability can be fudged by bad actors in the market. That leads to buyers getting the best viewability scores by using fraudulent publishers.

    Also, the good publishers that try to integrate the multiple view ability vendor that the buy side demands will end up with slow, none responsive sites and mobile applications. This will drive real users away.

    The result is that the good publishers and advertisers take the hit and the bad actors win?

    All because the buy side happily integrates platforms and measurements that make no technical or business sense.