#OPSPOV: Preparing for the Rendered Impression Revolution [UPDATED]

Rendered Impression Counting Has Arrived...

Read the latest developments in impression counting—the “begin-to-render” movement—here. (1/5/2017)

Chatter about discrepancies can always be made out during a Publisher Forum, but for latest gathering in Austin this August, the talk was louder and more anxious. With good reason, though – some demand-side ad servers are reportedly counting when ads actually render rather than when served.

[UPDATE, 9/13/16 9:40 AM EDT: Flashtalking has not switched its counting method, but has begun supplying rendered impression metrics (similar to what Google will begin offering in November for the sell side). Flashtalking Chief Product Officer Jos Pamboris also notes that campaigns with viewability components only count rendered impressions, but as we’ve noted elsewhere, the percentage of such campaigns is pretty low from publisher to publisher.]

[UPDATE, 9/14/16 3:08 PM EDT: Sizmek said that the claim they had changed their counting method was inaccurate. “We have followed the mobile impression counting methodology as outlined by the IAB since 2014,” said Product Marketing Manager David Simutis. “We’re glad that the industry is rallying around the proper way to count, and welcome DFP following this guideline as part of its future plans.”]

“How dare they!” you may scream in anguish, but this change is something the Media Ratings Council has been pushing for some time (alongside the viewability effort) and you have to admit that it’s a fairer way to count impressions. Just like viewability, this shift is ultimately better for the industry: advertisers should expect to be charged for an ad that loads, not just was called for. 

While the IAB’s impression measurement standard still says counting can start on serving, the Bureau is working in conjunction with the MRC to move the wider industry to a rendered impression basis.

Of course, major transitions like this typically feature awkward adjustment periods. Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers, the most widely used ad server in the U.S., is still counting impressions starting at the ad call – hence the great uptick in primary and third-party discrepancies. However, DFP will be testing out capabilities starting in November – phase 1 of 3 includes rendered impression metrics in reporting.

The final phase – “Billing and Final Impression Counting Changes” – will reportedly roll out in third-quarter 2017. Google highlights several overall benefits including improved viewability rates and standardized counting across tech platforms (that includes other Google products like Doubleclick Campaign Manager). 

However, there will be other less positive effects: namely, publisher inventory will decrease by about 15% on average, according to our PubForum breakout group, with a bigger loss to be felt on mobile (fast-scrolling fingers and slow-loading ads are not a good mix). So while in the near-term publishers may have to grin and bear it with the discrepancies, they should be focusing on bigger-picture steps to both minimize the coming impression drain and stem revenue loss.

Fortunately, the breakout group had many great suggestions (special thanks to Nicole Cooklin of Cars.com).

  • To get an idea of how rendered impressions will to affect you, take a look at GPT’s “start rendered” metric. Also, take a look at DFP’s viewability macro.
  • Adjust your ad specs so ads load faster! 
  • LEAN ads are going to be important – educate your advertisers.
  • Develop an “acceptable render time,” and be vigilant about policing it.
  • Work with agencies closely on this – in particular, ask them to move the impression-tracking pixel to the start of the ad call. 
  • Talk to your ad server about having them call ads faster. Note that if there are a lot of targeting criteria for a given ad, it will load slower.
  • Consider adjusting billing terms and conditions – unfortunately, IAB version 3.0 doesn’t address this.
  • And yes, just like viewability, you’re probably going to have to raise rates. When an advertiser complains, “What was I paying for before?” replying, “Inefficient technology” never feels very satisfying, but it’s the case.

AdMonsters is keeping its eye on this issue, but also take a look at the IAB’s Modernizing Measurement Taskforce, which will be meeting in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 13 – on the agenda is finalization of display and mobile web measurement guidelines.