Digital Ad Delivery Practices Examined

According to a recent comScore release of results from its U.S.-based vCE Charter Study involving online advertising campaigns from 12 premium national advertisers, a large portion of ad impressions are not delivered according to plan, and that the quality of ad delivery can vary greatly based on a variety of factors, including site, placement, creative and targeting strategy.

Linda Abraham, comScore co-founder and CMO, excplained that “This... study (brought) twelve leading marketers together to understand the complete system of online advertising delivery... to diagnose sources of waste and identify solutions for improving the value that all players in the ecosystem can extract from the digital advertising market...  neither side of the industry has had a clear picture of ad delivery... resulting in a lack of confidence in digital’s ability to deliver on its promise as the most measurable advertising medium... “

The study evaluated ad delivery based on a several key dimensions, including whether or not the ads were delivered in-view, to the right audience, in the right geography, in brand safe environments and absent of fraud. Detailed findings shed light on the current state of online ad delivery and its implications for different participants in the online advertising market. Key findings shown in the report include:

  • The study showed that 31% of ads were not in-view, meaning they never had an opportunity to be seen. There was also great variation across sites where the campaigns ran, with in-view rates ranging from 7% to 100% on a given site. This variance illustrates that even for major advertisers making premium buys there is a lot of room for improvement.
  • Generally, campaigns that had very basic demographic targeting objectives performed well with regard to hitting those targets. Those with an objective of reaching people in a particular broad age range did so with 70% of their impressions. As additional demographic variables were added to the targeting criteria (e.g. income + gender), accuracy rates of the ad delivery declined. However, 37% of all impressions were delivered to audiences with behavioral profiles that were relevant to the brand. One campaign had 67% of its impressions viewed by the target behavioral segment.
  • Of the campaigns analyzed, 72% had at least some impressions that were delivered adjacent to objectionable content, chiefly adult-oriented or “hate sites.” While this did not translate to a large number of impressions on an absolute basis, 92,000 people were exposed to these impressions, demonstrating that brand safety should be of concern to all advertisers.
  • Fraud is an undeniably large and growing problem in digital advertising. The results showed that an average of 0.16% of impressions across all campaigns was delivered to non-human agents from the IAB spiders & bots list. Although this percentage might appear negligible, there are two important considerations to keep in mind. Only the most basic forms of inappropriate delivery were addressed in this study,but when additional, more sophisticated types of fraud are considered, the problem will only get larger. Like brand safety, fraud should be an important concern for all advertisers.
  • The study showed that there was little to no correlation between CPM and value being delivered to the advertiser. Ad placements with strong in-view rates are not getting higher CPMs than placements with low in-view rates. Similarly, ads that are doing well at delivering to a primary demographic target are not receiving more value than those that are not. In other words, neither ad visibility nor the quality of the audience reached is currently reflected in the economics of digital advertising.

These findings suggest that measuring all dimensions of ad delivery for every placement in a holistic fashion is critical and that optimizing delivery in-flight is a necessary step in the campaign management process, concludes the report. The findings also support the argument that any digital GRP metric must account for validated, not gross impressions. This validated impression measurement must include ‘viewable impressions,’ based on the very simple notion that if an ad is not seen, it cannot possibly deliver its intended effect.

Abraham concludes by noting that “... with 31% of the study impressions not being viewable, it is... clear just how important in-view measurement is to online campaign validation... if a digital campaign rating does not also take into account... opportunity to be seen... then the metric fails to deliver a true apples-to-apples comparison... “

About the vCE Charter Study:
To better understand issues associated with display ad delivery and validation, 12 leading marketers participated in a U.S.-based study, called the vCE Charter Study. Select study participants were Allstate, Chrysler, Discover, E-Trade, Ford, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kimberly Clark, Kraft, and Sprint. 18 campaigns with 2,975 media placements on 380,898 site domains delivering 1.8 billion ad impressions of display ads via iframes were measured through December, 2011.

To download the Whitepaper from comScore, please visit here



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