Display Ad Share Drops, Uncertain Viewability, Metrics Blamed

Despite its promise as a superior display ad metric, “viewability” remains a touchy subject among publishers and advertisers.

According to comScore, only about half of display ads are viewable, and worse yet, the Media Rating Council recently deemed the technology for tracking ad “viewability” unfit for industry use.

In some case, publishers and advertisers are ditching ad networks altogether.

“The lack of a clear definition of what a valid impression is led us to move away from working with ad networks and to create our own in-house demand-side platform,” said Erica Bigley, Ford and Lincoln digital media manager for the Ford Motor Company, commenting on Forrester's report on viewability. “We want to know where we’re running and that we’re spending efficiently and effectively.”

The problem is cutting into display ad spending. Per Forrester’s latest estimates, brand marketers’ share of display ad spend has declined from a peak of 48% in 2006. It has been stalled at about 31% to 33% for the past three years, and Forrester believes it will fall to 27% by 2018 if nothing occurs to alter this trend.

That dipping trend has not been lost on the industry’s governing bodies.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, along with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Newspaper Association of America and the Online Publishers Association, have laid out broad plans to address display advertising’s decline.

“The most likely standard -- covering desktop, mobile Web, and social -- defines a viewable display ad as one where 50% of the ad’s pixels appeared in a viewable space and, therefore, had the opportunity to be seen by a human being for at least one second,” according to Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester and lead author of its new viewability report.

An accreditation process or viewability measurement vendors -- conducted by the Media Rating Council -- is expected to ease fears of bias and unethical behavior surrounding the new standards.

In late April, Google announced that it has received approval from the MRC for its new viewability measurement solution, Active View.

“Because Google is a key player in the digital ad serving market, with an estimated 60% of all publishers working with DoubleClick, this will ensure a rapid and substantial adoption of the new viewability standards across the display ads ecosystem,” Bidel explained.

With the implementation of the viewability standards, GRPs will become the de facto currency for display ads, which is consistent with measurement standards accepted across the majority of advertising platforms.

But the issue won’t end there, according to Bidel. “Publishers will have to spend on new technologies to accommodate the new viewability standard.”
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5 comments about "Display Ad Share Drops, Uncertain Viewability, Metrics Blamed".
  1. Jeff Bander from Sticky , July 12, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
    The death of the online display is greatly exaggerated. While "viewability" might be a touchy subject for some, the fact remains, companies demand better solutions to measure their online branding investment. Data that can be used to optimize branding campaigns, evaluate media buys and improve ROI. The opportunity to be seen is a start. Imagine if you knew not only if your online branding ads have the opportunity to be seen, but what if you could know if they were actually seen and for how long? Sounds terrific doesn't it? Publishers, agencies and brands all win. "viewability on steroids" http://sticky.ad/
  2. R.J. Lewis from e-Healthcare Solutions, LLC , July 13, 2013 at 11:57 p.m.
    Premium publishers who do the right thing, keep ads above the fold, don't buy questionable PPC traffic, etc... stand to benefit from this greatly. As the made for AdSense and quick churn UCG sites with 12 ads on a page will most likely suffer. The market could use a good cleansing of poor quality inventory. As that supply gets squelched, quality publishers with good audiences, who treat their advertisers well, should benefit.
  3. Mark Mclaughlin from McLaughlin Strategy , July 15, 2013 at 8:01 p.m.
    Display ads are now being relegated to the place that the digital industry forced them to go. Like Yellow Pages and classified ads in the back of newspapers, they exist to serve the lowest common denominator direct response metrics. They could have blossomed into a spectacular opportunity for brand advertising strategies but the industry itself chose arbitrage over artfulness again and again. Display advertising will never die, it will live on in purgatory thinking about what might have been as all those TV budgets go into video.
  4. Rafael Cosentino from Adblade , July 16, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.
    Problems with Bots, crawlers and other automated sources of traffic continue putting huge downward pressure on the CPM pricing model. By some estimates, as much as 25% of all internet page impressions are created by bots, crawlers, iframes and other automated/non-real forms of traffic. This destroys the advertisers ROI and increases their CPA. Unless pubs have sophisticated methods of detecting and filtering these sources, big issues about the value of ads will continue to proliferate. Performance based pricing and shared value creation has become the only viable option for many advertisers. Bottom line, as an industry we need to create more safety and quality because if advertisers stop finding real value, we're all in big trouble.
  5. Domenico Tassone from Viewthrough Measurement Consortium , July 20, 2013 at 3:53 p.m.
    When looking at these trumpeted spending figures, how do we know display CPM rates are not just not lower (more RTB buying) or perhaps CPC rates have increased (bid-up)?