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Viewability Rising As Programmatic Dominates & Fraud Proliferates
As programmatic display has taken hold of the industry, fraudsters are tapping into the dollars flowing in that direction. Could viewability address the problem?
The number of companies using programmatic ad buying is increasing by the day. A recent Advertiser Perceptions survey reports that 78% of high-level decision makers are now using programmatic technologies and strategies across campaigns.
On the positive side, programmatic allows marketers to buy audiences using data and increases media efficiencies. However, concerns within the real-time bidding (RTB) world are mounting around whether or not ads have a fair shot at being “in-view,” or even seen by a real human vs. a bot.
The “Bad Actors”
The brunt of the issue comes from sites (also referred to as “bad actors”) that claim to have what appears to be significant traffic, and offer those impressions on exchanges. These publishers either cover their sites with ads in order to report a large number of impressions and/or aggregate content to portray a credible environment. These sites don’t provide audiences with content and/or useful information, and are hyper-focused on generating traffic and clicks.
The industry has a variety of names for this behavior including “suspicious traffic,” “fraudulent impressions,” and “non-human traffic”– also known as “bots.” The fake clicks are executed by a “botnet,” which then completes the action of clicking on display ads.
Bots are committing wide-scale fraud beneath operating system levels; often this is undetectable—most of the time we just don’t know if our computers are infected. The average person isn’t equipped with the necessary knowledge to recognize when they are being victimized by fraud.
It Affects The Entire Ecosystem
Although this ultimately impacts advertisers, the entire ecosystem is affected because it impacts supply and demand.
In order to determine if your ad is viewable, there are several sources you can use to check viewability rates. According to DoubleVerify, RTB buying dipped from 48% viewable to 43% from Q3 to Q4 2014. The percentage fell from 55% to 51% at ad networks and from 64% to 58% on publisher-direct exchanges.
However, the world of digital display advertising has become so vast that it is almost too difficult to measure. Recent numbers show that the number of available ad impressions is all over the map (well in the trillions per year for just one ad exchange). When you compare the number of impressions a year to the total U.S. population of internet users, it would actually mean that a given user potentially sees about 6,000 ads per month.
Therefore, there are more daily ad impressions available than the average internet user could possibly see in a day.
Digital advertising remains the most effective form of advertising in the world. In order to make sure you are not getting taken advantage of, implement an anti-fraud solution and move beyond post-click attribution, which is the easiest form of attribution to fake.
Current Metrics Are Too Easy To Game
Traditional metrics like post-click, click-through and view-through conversions have made it fairly simple for fraudsters to game the system across the open marketplace. When marketers optimize to view-through or last-click, the media partners that recorded the last view or conversion event are rewarded. Occasionally, such rewards lead to optimization towards suspicious traffic and create high conversions.
However, in the end, this results in essentially no real consumer response and no brand exposure. In other words, advertisers waste their media dollars on ads that are never actually seen.
RTB is a double-edged sword: it’s created efficiencies and opportunities for the digital marketer while also cultivating problems for publishers and advertisers. For the entire ecosystem, it has created an exponential increase in ads, the companies who serve them and measure them, and the potential for fraudulent traffic.
Viewability Is The Solution
Viewability is the common denominator that will solve these negative practices in the digital marketing industry.
Now that we’ve hit the second-half of 2014, we’ll see more brands demand that their partners, including publishers and media providers, implement anti-fraud solutions. This should help marketers become more comfortable with using viewability as a viable brand measure for digital display.
Ultimately, everyone has a stake in steering the industry toward better quality measures. The short-term impact may be a bit scary for publishers, media firms and agencies alike, but the end result will create a more viable display ecosystem and a thriving future for programmatic that we all know is possible.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.