Google Rolls Out 'Above the Fold' Targeting on Content Network

  |  March 4, 2010   |  Comments

Takes into account vagaries of screen resolution, screen size, and browser type that can push an ad placement out of view.

Like many of its rivals, Google is perpetually batting its eyelashes at large brand advertisers. To make a pass for their billion dollar TV and print budgets, the company knows it must create new ad types and audience segmenting tools that speak their language. And so it has, adding tweaks such as frequency capping, larger ad sizes, and integrated measurement of display and search advertising.

The latest feature, available today on Google's Content Network, allows advertisers to bid only on ad inventory appearing within a user's browser window when a page loads, without requiring her to scroll. It allows ad buyers to exclude ad space outside the frame by selecting a "below the fold" exclusion. ("Above the fold" and "below the fold" are newspaper industry terms referring to printed content appearing on the visible side and underside, respectively, of a folded daily edition.)

"With brand-aware advertisers paying on a CPM basis, they're concerned with making sure their ads are seen by as many users as possible within [segment] they're targeting," said Brad Bender, director of product management for display ads on the Google Content Network.

Bender noted the feature is also available to direct response and cost-per-click advertisers, who may experiment with it for time-sensitive campaigns or to increase ROI. But it's really designed to serve brand marketers and others paying by the impression, for whom off-screen ad placements are a waste of money.

Google expects the exclusion will result in higher prices for "above the fold" placements, as brand advertisers bid against each other for those more desirable placements.

"Above-the-fold" ad targeting is not new. Other ad networks and Web sites have offered it, but the designation can be a sloppy one. For instance, it may include the top one or two ad slots on any given site, regardless of their exact position or the vagaries of screen size, screen resolution, and browser type that can influence the layout of a page.

"A lot of publishers would label a slot above or below the fold," said Bender. "Without taking a more rigorous approach, they don't get the full sense of what could be happening."

Google uses a statistical method to isolate ad placements appearing within a browser window after a page loads. It works by leveraging a Javascript call to determine, on a site-by-site basis, where on a page a specific ad slot appears. For instance, if there are three ad positions on a Web page - one at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom, Google might use aggregated data from that site to discover that 100 percent of the upper placements render above fold, 0 percent of lower placements render there, and 60 percent of mid-page ad placements do so.

According to Bender, an ad placement must appear within the browser frame 100 percent of the time or be lumped with the "below the fold" exclusion.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zachary Rodgers

Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects. 

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