The firm measured 12 brands and 18 campaigns, finding 31% of ad impressions served were not seen by users.
ComScore is working with brands, publishers and agencies to coalesce around new ad metrics that put a greater emphasis on ads that are actually viewed. Many agree there is waste in digital advertising, but rarely do advertisers realize just how much money and opportunity are wasted throughout the course of their campaigns.
A whitepaper published today by comScore highlights the unintended consequences that even premium brands suffer as their ads proliferate online and attempts to make the case for why viewable impressions will be the new currency of digital marketing. The research firm worked with 12 brands including Ford, GM, Kellog's and Sprint to measure 18 different campaigns with 2 billion impressions served collectively. It found that 31 percent of those measured impressions were not in view, meaning they did meet a visibility standard requiring at least half of an ad to be visible for one second or longer.
"That statistic was pretty shocking to a lot of these advertisers and if you began to look at it by campaign or particular publisher or ad network, there was a lot of differentiation," said Linda Abraham, CMO and EVP at comScore. "That was really eye opening," she said, adding that viewable rates ranged from as low as 7 percent on some sites to a much 100 percent on others.
Indeed, momentum for viewable impressions appears to be growing at large. The online ad industry is uniting for the effort, and last week comScore and VivaKi announced a partnership that brings viewability metrics into the equation for several advertisers.
All of comScore's clients are involved and interested in adopting the viewable impressions metric, said Abraham. "We are in conversations with several other agencies that plan to make very similar announcements soon."
Another major problem that comScore is taking on with its push for validated viewable impressions is the notion of scarcity in online media. Unlike television and print, which have clearly defined and understandably limited space for advertising, the Internet is widely viewed as an infinite galaxy for content and advertising - particularly display ads.
"You have the economics of infinite supply at play," but it's not really infinite, said Abraham. "There's only so many great news sites out there and only so many hours in the day....This allows buyers and sellers to differentiate that inventory that matters."
By surfacing scarcity, greater use of viewability metrics could result in an adjustment in the value of online advertising as perceived by media buyers. Through its research, the firm concluded there is "an enormous gap between served impressions and validated impressions, helping to illuminate how the validation lens adds both transparency and scarcity in the online ad equation."
ComScore believes its new measurement technology will enable publishers and advertisers to better discriminate between high- and low-quality inventory, and create greater demand for premium ads. "This is measurement that allows us to follow the consumer and let consumers and audiences drive the value dynamics behind the inventory,” said Abraham. "I think it's going to render some of the historical ways of measuring things obsolete."
The study, which originally focused in the U.S. market and is now expanding to Europe, Asia and Latin America, also found that 72 percent of the campaigns evaluated had ads that were delivered adjacent to inappropriate content. At least 92,000 people were exposed to premium brand content near adult content or hateful views.
Even "blue chip brands" can't escape these safety issues, said Abraham. "Sometimes ads for these brands end up in places that nobody ever imagined." Although it may be a relatively small number of impressions, all it takes is one misguided ad to negatively impact a brand's reputation.
"We think this is something that is really important on a global scale because these dynamics are at play everywhere," Abraham said. "Some publishers are basically saying we want to be evaluated on this from now on."
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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