Now You See It: Viewable Impressions Q&A With Mark Howard, SVP of Digital Ad Strategy, Forbes

The topic of viewable impressions caused quite a stir this spring at both the IAB Leadership Conference and AdMonsters’ Publisher Forum in Palm Springs this past March.

 

I’ve heard some suggest methods for ensuring display impressions are actually seen are the “new verification” in terms of confusion and controversy over deployment.


Yet some publishers are diving in headfirst, including Forbes, which recently announced it’s leveraging comScore’s validated Campaign Essentials (vCE) technology to offer viewable impression measurement across all display ad campaigns running on Forbes.com. This is part of the media company’s validated Brand Increase Guarantee (vBIG) program, the latest generation of the 10-year-old Brand Increase Guarantee program, which will now guarantee 100% of impressions for this advertiser set are viewable. Mark Howard, SVP of Digital Ad Strategy for Forbes Media, gave us some more insight into the vBIG program as well his thoughts on the inevitability of viewable impression metrics across the industry.


Why has Forbes decided to embrace viewable impressions? What definition of the metric do you follow?


Viewable impressions are the only way that advertisers can truly experience the brand impact that display advertising is capable of delivering. If the ad is never in view, there certainly isn’t any chance of driving awareness or of affecting a perception shift. As more and more inventory has become flooded the market, it has dramatically impacted the marketer’s ability to properly value inventory. This shift will start to change that as a more accurate value of an impression will emerge benefiting both the marketer and us. We currently define an impression as 60% of the ad unit being in view for 1 second or longer.


Can you explain the inspiration and purpose of the validated Brand Increase Guarantee program?


The vBIG or validated Brand Increase Guarantee is the next wave of the Brand Increase Guarantee program that we’ve been running at Forbes.com for almost 10 years. We’ve always believed that display ads on Forbes.com will help brand marketers move the needle in their efforts to deliver brand impact, we’re now just using the latest vCE technology from comScore to power this new version of the program. When advertisers run a campaign on Forbes.com of $250,000 or more over 90 days, we will guarantee that not only will they see a statistically significant increase in at least one brand metric; awareness, favorability, message association or purchase intent but additionally they are now only expected to pay for impressions that we can prove were actually in view.


How will comScore’s VCE platform change ad operations team functions? What responsibilities will be added?


In partnership with our current AdOps team, we built out a new Ad Insights team that is monitoring all of the data from the vCE platform and other strategic partners we’ve brought on to help us to gain additional intelligence pertaining to the ads served on the site. This team is helping us drive our branding initiatives that sit at the heart of this program, ultimately providing greater insights to our partners about what is happening with their ads beyond just impressions and clicks and gets us to be able to provide data that actually matters to brand marketers; how long their ads are in view, how many people paid attention to them and ultimately how long people interacted with the ads.


Beyond viewable impressions, what other features of VCE stand out as quintessential to Forbes’ revenue efforts?


The ability to prove to our vBIG partners that their ads are in view is a tremendous value to us. Upon announcing this new program, we’ve immediately begun seeing interest from many of our clients which is changing the conversation that our sales team is having in the market about the true value of their campaigns on Forbes.com.


How does Forbes see viewable impressions improving inventory monetization? How does the metric improve pricing accuracy?


The more data we can gather about the site, what impressions are being viewed and the audience that’s viewing them, the more we’re able to drive better brand lift performance. We’re continuing to bring more partners into the mix that will help us optimize campaigns towards these brand metrics and in doing so can begin to change the way our advertisers view their inventory on Forbes.com and it completely changes how we’re able to monetize the site knowing that each impression is actually working on behalf of our advertiser for the common goal of helping to drive their business forward.


What is your take on industry adoption of viewable impressions – inevitable? Any opinions on how the debate will take shape?


Yes, marketers who are paying for this inventory will expect it. Premium publishers will be able to better understand the value of their inventory and price it accordingly for their advertisers. We don’t expect this to be something that’s resolved quickly or to see industry wide standardization soon however we are excited to be having this conversation with our advertisers and fully expect them to turn around and ask their other partners why they aren’t bringing this level of accountability forward.


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