The recent announcement that GroupM will soon withdraw from open ad exchanges and operate solely on private exchanges clearly demonstrates that the lack of transparency and fraud in online advertising has reached an unsustainable level. It is time for an industrywide rethink.
For video advertising the situation is potentially even more precarious, due to the domination of pre-roll advertising formats. In-stream formats like pre-roll force web users to watch an ad before they are able to view their chosen video content. Leaving fraud, which accounts for 12% of all impressions, aside for now, the biggest threat to viewability is user behavior. Today’s internet users have developed lightening quick reflexes to avoid advertising they do not wish to watch. They open a new tab or window, mute the sound the very instant an unwanted advertisement appears in front of their video content.
A recent study by Tubemogul revealed that 70% of all non-viewable impressions are non-viewable because the window in which the video is playing is no longer on the screen. Once bot traffic is discounted, the viewability of pre-roll advertising drops to 22% on average and 48% in premium environments. Ultimately advertisers who buy on CPM are paying between two and five times more than they should.
To combat the issues surrounding viewability, we have decided to join the Open VV consortium, created by Tubemogul, Innovid, Brightroll and Liverail, which develops technology able to precisely measure the viewability of videos from beginning to end. This technology can address the issues of transparency and fraud surrounding video advertising, and turn them into strengths.
Although monitoring viewability is key, it is more important to develop formats that encourage the user to watch an ad, not avoid it at all costs. Returning to the topic of pre-roll advertising, it is clear to me that the days of non-skippable pre-roll advertising are numbered. It is impossible to force a Web users to watch ads if they do not want to. Web users are not in the same frame of mind as those watching TV at the end of a long day, half asleep and too lazy to change the channel during the ad breaks. As we already seen, the majority of Internet users do escape pre-roll ads. And I am not even sure that the minority who do not is necessarily the most interesting target for brands.
We believe that ads have more value when Web users intentionally view them. Video ads are often highly entertaining and great quality, and can be offered as relevant content, not a painful toll that must be paid before video content can be viewed.
In the last few years, we have been placing the campaigns within the heart of the articles on media sites, thanks to click-to-play or even better, view-to-play formats. The view-to-play concept is an efficient and elegant solution to the challenge of viewability in video advertising. But it also has another benefit: it opens huge new premium video inventory in the world’s largest media sites. The availability of such premium inventory, on a global scale, can only be good news for advertisers, agencies and media owners alike.