The digital advertising industry decided in March of this year to launch an initiative to propose standards that would help drive a consistent currency and set of metrics that would give marketers a way to simply evaluate digital media and facilitate more efficient buying. Unlike TV, our industry still lacks a single metric for rating and ultimately valuing media. The Media Rating Council (MRC), an independent body that serves the marketing industry in validating media measurement, was selected to lead an effort to shift measurement from "served" to "viewable" impressions. This shift makes some sense but has been plagued with many challenges.
Vendor gold rush. There were many vendors who started beating the drum of viewability and audience verification well in advance of any standard measurement definitions and, worse yet, in advance of the actual technical capability to effectively measure 100 percent of ads served. These companies are in a race to be first-to-market and to position themselves as the de facto measurement standard. And who could blame them? To get there first would mean a virtual monopoly on digital measurement and control of how media is bought and sold.
Technical limitations. The way ads are delivered today across the digital ecosystem creates many challenges to successfully measuring viewability. The largest and most widespread issue is the use of cross-domain iFrames. This method of delivery ensures a more seamless consumer experience but creates a variety of obstacles to accurate evaluation of where and when an ad is delivered to a page and if the end consumer has actually even viewed the ad.
Lack of understanding. Because of the tremendous hype and PR that the measurement companies and other "viewability" vendors have created, marketers are confused. They often ask their agencies and media vendors for their POV or, worse case, demand the purchase of only viewable ads. Today, this is a very difficult ask and one that wastes massive time, inventory, and resources while causing major damage to otherwise healthy media relationships.
The MRC today issued a statement that, in summary, says it's too early to be buying media purely based on viewability. In fact, it is media suicide to do so. Further, the MRC contends that we as an industry still have a number of actions and learnings to grasp before viewability will be a viable metric for transaction.
So, what do we do in the meantime now that marketers are all up in arms regarding the purchase of only "in view" ads, and we don't yet have a metric beyond the click-through for brand-oriented campaigns? I have a few recommendations:
Focus on the metrics we can measure. Marketers care about attention, therefore give them metrics around time spent with their brand, product, or messaging. Provide ample information on the various ways that consumers could engage or share the brand message.
Campaign effectiveness. Brands love to see pre- and post-research data. Be sure to partner with a research company and leverage data from brand studies to determine brand lift, attitudinal shifts in loyalty, or the specific effectiveness of a campaign in moving product.
Change the conversation. Use standard engagement and interaction data across creative formats and platforms (mobile, video, and display) to create compelling stories around how consumers engage with various types of creative in different environments. When you combine these types of metrics with audience insights or composition analysis, the outputs can be profound and have tremendous impact on how a marketer views your media property and your sales team - and how much they value you as a partner.
These efforts of the MRC, and others in the industry, to identify a single metric for media evaluation are the right course. But let's not forget that if the entire industry is going to benefit, the solution must be simple and work 100 percent of the time. Then we will see marketers finally shifting dollars from TV to digital (#GRP). What do you think?
Sales Gimmick image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Larry Allen is SVP, Global Platform Sales for Xaxis. He has responsibility for overseeing solutions for publishers including Xaxis for Publishers, Xaxis Exchange, and Xaxis Marketplace globally.
Larry has extensive experience in digital media, marketing, and business strategy unmatched by most standards. Prior to joining 24/7 Media (which merged with Xaxis in 2014), he held senior management positions at cutting-edge digital media companies such as AOL, Viewpoint, Unicast, Yieldex, Real Media, and TACODA.
Larry also ran his own consulting business where he advised many major media companies such as The New York Times, Meredith, 33Across, and Business Insider. He is a frequent contributor to a number of trade publications, blogs, and industry conferences.
A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Business Management, Larry is based in Xaxis' headquarters in New York City.
Follow him on Twitter at @lawrenceallen2.
March 19, 2014