Everybody's Talking About Viewability And That Ain't Good

I don’t run a Website, an ad agency or a trade organization, but it’s apparent the viewability problem once confined to buzz at online video conferences and stories on sites like this one has found a life of its own. It's gone viral.

That makes sense. On a still-new advertising medium so big and confusing to many, it turns out advertisers themselves are being scammed. That’s an irresistible story.  

It took years to get consumers to feel comfortable about buying online. Of course, it’s inevitable there would be counterfeit ads on the Web, or not on the Web as the case may be. Being ripped off is one of the features of the Internet. Even security software that allegedly protects you from viruses is something you probably don't need.  

At MediaPost’s online video summit in April, the viewability panel may have been the hottest hours of the weekend. But that’s a select crowd.

A wider audience came when The New York Times gave the viewability situation big play with an article May 3 and since then, well, the hits just keep on coming.

The Wall Street Journal weighed in
, not for the first time, a few days ago, with “Bots and ‘Drone Pools’: The Deep Bag of Tricks In Video-Ad Fraud,” with the subhead, “Advertisers Can Be Tricked Into Paying for Spots on Bogus Sites With Fake Traffic.” If nothing else, it makes one appreciative there are still some A-1 headline writers out there.  

Across the pond, The Financial Times also reported on a Mercedes Benz campaign seen by more bots than people.

All those stories. Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a trend. Several times is, in this case, a crisis.

Radio Insights retraced several viewability stories a couple days ago and huffed:  “These sorts of stories should make radio’s leaders livid. Major advertisers have been sold a bill of goods by digital stakeholders, and radio is doing virtually nothing to publicize the fraud and contrast it to radio's transparency..."

Then there’s this from E.politics.com, a site dedicated to dissecting the craft of online political advocacy, that quoted the part of the Times article that says that, possibly, more than half of all ads are actually unseen.

This, the site says, should “scare the pants off anybody who’s spending money to buy video ads” in a story titled, "Are Your Ads Being Seen...At All?

The site’s Colin Delancy exclaims, “More than half of video ads unviewable? Holy crap! …But if political advertisers in general really ARE wasting more than half the money they spend on video ads, that’s a very serious problem.”

Delancy then starts wondering about those (possible) phantom viewers on Facebook pages. He continues, “Somehow I get the feeling that a lot fewer people read what we publish than we’d like to think…a sobering thought for any professional communicator. Or anyone else who values the time he or she puts into creating content.”

That bad cat is out of the bag. If even political advertisers, steeped in shaving the truth, are upset, how long can it be before Morley Safer comes knocking on the door?    

pj@mediapost.com

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1 comment about "Everybody's Talking About Viewability And That Ain't Good".
  1. Jeff Bander from Sticky , June 1, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.
    Digital is more measurable than any other media. What is most surprising is why nothing has been said about TV, radio, billboards or newspapers? Where is the accountability in the old media? Does anyone really believe people who watch a TV show actually sit and watch the commercials? People listening to radio, do they ever switch stations? Just because a newspaper is printed does not mean anyone ever saw it. We can go on and on. The digital world is the most measurable and has taken a large piece of the pie from the old traditional medias. The reality is, it's just the beginning.