The Four Questions: Getting The Scoop On Viewable Impressions

As we speak, the IAB, ANA, and 4A’s are deliberating on a standard ad metric that could change the very nature of how digital advertising is bought, sold and measured. It’s all about viewable impressions right now.  As I talk to clients and associates about the impending viewable impression standard, there’s some confusion about some of the finer points -- some of the most techy ad ops questions in years.  I’ve identified four of them:

1.  How is data being collected?  Namely, is the viewable impression measurement partner collecting data with flash cookies -- or are they using device fingerprinting, which could get your company sued?  Flash cookies and device fingerprinting may be the landmine lawsuit you didn’t expect.  Talk with Google’s Ad Exchange, and you’ll discover that no vendor is allowed to use flash cookies on AdEx.  There’s a reason, and it’s called privacy violation.

2.  How is the viewable impression method trafficked?  Meaning, is the viewable impression data collected with only a small panel, say approximately 30,000 people with toolbars on their computers in the U.S.?  Or is a pixel trafficked with every single banner ad run by the agency or advertiser -- each and every banner?  If it’s a panel of 30,000 users, divide that into 245 million U.S. Internet users, and the odds of a viewable impression being captured by a panel are unreliably small for DSPs, networks, and advertisers.  You should expect and demand data for 100% of banners versus less than 4% of your banners served if you want an accurate picture of impressions in view.  Nielsen’s John Burbank said it best at the ARF: "A panel of virtually any size wouldn't be able to provide accurate data, and it wouldn't be able to provide fast data." Panels work for gross metrics, but not for granular metrics.

3.  How do I grow a campaign using viewable impression data?  At the end of the day, nobody wants a report card.  The only way the ecosystem grows from the viewable impression initiative is if there’s real-time feedback.  Meaning, a viewable impression measurement partner should be in constant two-way communication with a network or DSP -- it should feed the ecosystem, not take pictures of it.  This feeds the ecosystem.  When a viewable impression vendor signals a network or DSP about the probability of a certain ad unit being in view with a certain publisher based on recent history, it provides the DSP with real-time inputs to either make a bid or not on the inventory in a split second.  Or, the vendor should be able to fire a pixel for every client banner that comes in view, building a pixel-fired pre-bid profile of every publisher/ad unit combination for the RTB.  If no pixel can be fired, no ecosystem can grow.  The word “actionable” is thrown around often, but true actionability is found with two-way communication between platforms in a split-second, RTB environment.

4.  How does the iFrame issue get solved?  Since more than 50% of Internet ads are served by iFrame, this is a substantial issue for any viewable impression vendor.  Essentially, it’s like asking, how do you breathe under water?  Not many people can do this. 

If a company claims they can solve the iFrame challenge, ask how, and bring your privacy counsel along for that conversation.  Penetrating the actual iFrame requires notification from the publisher to the consumer that the publisher is taking some very private information from the consumer.  If that permission isn’t given, or notification isn’t made clear (requiring a change to the privacy policy of every publisher where the ad could run) there’s a significant privacy violation that could get you fired and your company and client sued.  The company with the biggest bank account likely gets the first lawsuit.  Smartframes are coming, but years away.  There may, however, be some privacy-compliant (even E.U.-compliant) ways arriving sooner than imagined.  The iFrame issue is an issue for all today, so request a schematic or a copy of their patent application from any company claiming to solve it.

Many more questions will be sorted out as the IAB and its partners come forward with their work.  The tough questions need to be asked early and often.

1 comment about "The Four Questions: Getting The Scoop On Viewable Impressions ".
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  1. Joshua Rex from AP, April 20, 2012 at 6:48 a.m.

    Working with some of the world's leading brands, including Diaego, Phillips, Castrol, Fx, Vodafone and Lego - for 4 years, we've held publishers accountable for 'impressions delivered vis a vis views counted' - a view defined as our display media technology (Open IMU) loading fully on the page. Fully - 100%.

    It's irrelevant whether the Open IMU it is delivered in an iFrame tag. The key is to track 'views' independently of impressions - which is what we do.

    We set a 10% discrepancy benchmark and the majority of campaigns fall within this. However, there are exceptions - and we've seen up to 50% discrepancy for some placements.

    If you want to pay for genuine engagement opportunities - not blind impressions - reach out.

    We'd love to hear from you.

    Joshua Rex

    This Is Open

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