This Week In Ad Ops: Ad Quality’s Effect on RTB, Viewability

Ad Quality and Programmatic Round Out This Week

Starting the Year in Full Gear

It’s been another exciting week for the AdMonsters team. The year’s first Publisher Forum in Sonoma is officially sold out. And, with around 150 confirmed participants landing in Northern California March 3 – March 6, Sonoma is sure to kick off this year’s schedule of events in style.  Industry influencers from leading companies, from LiveRail and MAGNAGlobal to Adobe, OpenX and more, will be on hand to lead more than 15 sessions.

If you didn’t secure a seat for Sonoma, don’t fret – OPS Markets 2013 kicks off April 4 in New York. This year’s OPS Markets will explore how digital strategists across the spectrum are embracing automation technology and audience data to further their revenue efforts in an ever-changing environment. In recent announcements, we’ve secured Hearst Digital’s VP and CRO Kristine Welker, LUMA Partners’ Amanda Bicofsky and Future of Privacy Forum’s director and co-chair Jules Polonetsky to round up our list of keynotes for the event. Also, Jonathan Glick, CEO and Founder of subject-based social site Sulia, Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer, and more will be on hand to head the day’s sessions.

Reserve your seat for OPS Markets today, before prices increase on Feb. 20. And, if you’re a publisher, it’s the perfect time to secure your spot at one or both of 2013’s remaining Publisher Forums – Boulder in August (DreamWorks’ Chris Hewish and Foundry Group’s Seth Levine will keynote) and Scottsdale in November. 

Is Direct Still King?

Real-time bidding and programmatic are pretty much the leaders of the advertising buzzword pack. Everywhere you turn, there’s new developments, investments, mergers, etc., all in the name of programmatic buying. We at AdMonsters aren’t innocent of any charges; we love programmatic just as much. – and, rightfully so, the benefits of automated buying and selling are pretty abundant and easy to spot. 

But, with all the hub-a-lub surrounding viewability, the true effectiveness of programmatic when it comes to garnering valid and engaging impressions is still out for deliberation. 

Advertising intelligence firm Integral Ad Science released its Q3-Q4 2012 Semiannual Review [PDF] Thursday; and, while much of the data may not be shocking per se, some of the findings point to the continuing arguments over quality in the programmatic and RTB ad space. Integral uses a proprietary score, called TRAQ, to rate the quality of ad placements and an ad quality’s impact on consumer engagement. 

Out of a possible 1,000 points, direct-sale ads garnered the highest average TRAQ score with 720. In comparison, exchange-driven ads received an average 560 TRAQ rating.  More than a third of all direct-sales ads were in view for more than five seconds, while only a little more than a quarter of exchange-driven ads were in view for more than five seconds. 

Many factors may be at fault for such numbers, particularly RTB’s somewhat notorious status as a dumping ground for unwanted ad inventory. That said, the swiftly growing popularity of programmatic, coupled with savvier technologies that really do help improve the quality of automatically-traded ads will help correct some of these data. 

“As our report indicates, issues like viewability and ad collisions simply cannot be improved if the industry does not take a harder look at media quality,” said Integral CEO Scott Knoll. 

And, as the debate on viewability roars on (a topic headlining sessions at both our Sonoma Publisher Forum in March and OPS Markets event in April), a better look at which metric most honestly reflect viewability must be had. 

Speaking of viewability, in recent news, comScore released its 2013 Digital Future In Focus report. Of the around 5 trillion ad impressions delivered yearly in the U.S., about a third are never seen by consumers. And, who better to release a report on the need for viewability metrics than comScore, whose viewability metrics recently hit the big leagues when USA Today and Gannett decided to use it

Other findings from the report: More than 20 percent of ad impressions out there may be fraudulent (that’s 30 percent for ad impressions on ad exchanges); a fifth of ads show up next to the same campaign; and, (as expected) mobile devices are a hit, with the number of viewed ads on mobile doubling. 

It’s a Programmatic World Out There

All these numbers on programmatic may have you rosy-tinted glasses a little foggy; but, don’t fret, programmatic is here to stay – and, if the latest numbers by real-time ad platform company PubMatic are any indication, programmatic is moving full steam ahead. 

According to the company’s latest figures, RTB accounts for 48 percent of non-direct sales for publishers on PubMatic’s platform, which is just a hair below the 50 percent that come from ad networks. And, the numbers are, indeed, indicative of RTB’s success with publishers, according to MediaPost’s Joe Mandese, who points out that eCPMs for RTB inventory was more than double that generated by ad networks.  

But, it’s not just RTB that ruffling the ad world’s feathers, programmatic premium continues to soar; and, according to PubMatic CEO Rajeev Goel, it’s expected to hit the $1 billion mark as soon as next year. 

“Guaranteed programmatic and all of its incarnations is probably a sound $100 million business this year,” Goel mentioned.  

“By Q4 though, we could be looking at rolling into next year where it’s spiking upward of one billion dollars. I think you’re starting to see the digital leaders get put in place that are for this agenda.” 

With all of this programmatic talk, it’s hard not to be gung-ho about industry automation. But, just how far should we go? According to eConsultancy’s CEO and co-founder Ashley Friedlein, automation is only one part of the solution. 

“The art and the science of great marketing will be about combining both ideas and automation,” Friedlein said. 

“You can already see this orchestration at play — the TV ad that is previewed on YouTube, announced on Twitter, aired on TV, then amplified via social media and email, with the value captured both reactively and programmatically by smart marketers, online and offline.”