And what a year it was. The digital industry, with help from friends like the Media Rating Council, has made progress in many areas of measurement. The aim of this column is not to provide a compendium of achievements -- nor to ignore the challenges still before us -- but, in the spirit of the holidays, to shine brightly and inspire even greater progress in the year to come.
In the last year, we have moved forward toward more comparable measurement across digital and analog media by implementing viewability and expanding the work on viewability to mobile ad impressions. This is just the beginning of the process of developing cross-platform comparability. On the docket, and in the early stages of development, are the standardization of audience-based digital and cross-platform GRPs.
The MRC has issued Social Media Measurement Guidelines that have a baseline in one of the fundamental premises of 3MS, which is that we must define and measure what is unique to interactivity in the brand-building process. We must do so with standardized, transparent metrics. Social media is just one piece of the puzzle that will ultimately be solved.
This is a perfect moment to reiterate an oft-repeated point: viewability is about delivering an ad so that it has the opportunity to be seen. Viewability should not be used to quantify engagement or impact. Engagement and its constructs still need standardization. The IAB published a whitepaper that defined engagement and specified core engagement metrics and definitions. The paper is an excellent foundation. Now the industry needs to build upon that foundation.
In a number of columns over the past 12 months, the utter fallacy of equating nonmeasurable or nonviewable ads with fraud has been covered. The relationship between identification of fraudulent traffic and measurement of all consumer activity with digital media is clearly of paramount importance. All good measurement of consumer behavior rests on measuring what people are doing. Fraudulent traffic must be identified and filtered out of the measurement data streams.
Working with the IAB, and others throughout the ecosystem, MRC issued an Invalid Traffic (IVT) Detection and Filtration Guidelines Addendum in October. The document seeks to modernize industry measurement standards for the filtration and disclosure of invalid traffic.
New to the year-end round-up are the results of an extensive, independent third-party examination of the costs of an untrustworthy digital supply chain released by IAB and Ernst & Young on Dec. 1. The study looked at three supply flaws: invalid traffic, malvertising+, and infringed content.
The term "malvertising+" is used because the commonly referred-to word malware is simply not broad enough to describe how malware is disseminated. That more commonly known concept is, “The potential distribution of malware across a larger population of consumers by compromising a single advertisement or script than would be possible through compromising a single website or content source.” The plus in malvertising+ refers to compromised third-party scripts intended for measurement or related purposes. (This goes beyond malvertising, where consumers’ devices are injected by malware via digital ad content.). There are multiple points of injections and multiple solutions required for malvertising+.
The total cost to the U.S. digital advertising ecosystem from fraud, malvertising+ and infringed content is $8.2 billion. Invalid traffic costs the U.S. ecosystem $4.6 billion. An estimated $2.5 billion is the price for lost ad and/or subscription revenue for infringed content. Malvertising+ costs the industry $1.1 billion. Lost ad revenue from ad blocking by consumers trying to protect their devices from malware is $781 million. Current cost to fight supply chain flaws is $219 million.
The porous and interrelated supply chain for digital ads and digital content mandate that the ecosystem solve these problems holistically and collectively. By supporting purveyors of infringed content, one also supports generation of more fraudulent traffic.
Through TAG, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, the ecosystem is working collectively to make the supply chain clean, well-lit and safe. The work is challenging and cannot be successful without every legitimate business in the supply chain fighting the good fight together. Know thy partners!
Despite hurdles that the ecosystem faces, consumers are adopting new content and new devices, and revenues for digital advertising are steadily increasing. We have challenges that we’ll need to meet head-on in 2016, but if we coalesce around solutions, the next year could prove to be a banner one in delivering on interactive marketing and media’s great promise.