'Below The Fold' Ad Placement: Real Threat Or Not?

Every now and then we hear about a new fraud threat. For a company that deals with these threats as part of its product offering, it's our bread and butter; the more threats, the more business for us.

However, the discussion about "below the fold" ad placement has been stretched too far. Why?

In the online video world, there are two playing methods: auto-initiated and user-initiated. In the user-initiated scenario, "below the fold" ad placement is not a bad thing, and actually the opposite is true; if a user scrolled down a given page page, and pressed the play button, that user was actually highly engaged with the ad unit. So if I may borrow a term from Myth Busters – the problem is busted.

In the auto-initiated scenario, there are two playing variations: auto-initiated with sound and auto-initiated without sound. If the ad unit is played with sound, users might hear the ad if their speakers are on. Then they can either stop the video (and this statistic is captured in the VTR metrics report) or scroll down and see the ad; again highly engaging with the video ad, and busted. Finally, to the last scenario -- the auto-initiated muted ads. In this scenario, there might be a problem indeed, since obviously users may not notice the video ad playing at all. I'd argue that this scenario can never happen, since no publisher would offer auto-initiated muted ad placements nor would any advertiser buy such low yield product. Busted once again.

As a final tribute to Myth Busters, we should look for the scenario in which “below the fold” may really pose a problem. Such a scenario is an ad unit that is auto-initiated and the user has muted speakers. I am not aware of any study gauging this phenomenon, so I’ll dare to say that this is a rare scenario, well under 5% of ad views. Probably busted too.

So, is “below the fold” placement a real problem? For the online video ad world, unlike our online display cousin, "below the fold" simply isn't. Much more acute threats are out there and we deal with those threats every day. The main threats, as we experience them, are:

Multiburns- multiple players on the same page, all auto-initiated. From our experience, in some regions a DSP buy might have up to 40% of multiburns(!).

Capping – The number of views of a certain ad received by the same viewer can shockingly reach as high as 500 times(!) The main reason for this phenomenon is loop players, which play again and again when people forget to close tabs or browsers for the weekend. 

Black list – under this category you can find porn, piracy and the like websites. What most marketers don’t know is that most technology providers do not block ad placements in these sites but rather provide a report in 24 hours delay. In most cases, advertisers may find themselves actually paying for these views.

And lastly, what we see as the biggest and most neglected problem: nonintentional ad views.  Some premium video sites encounter traffic of about 20% - 30% which is generated by “unintentional views, which means either pop-under or Trojan viruses.  Long-tail sites encounter even larger figures.

I suggest we focus on the real threats to the online video industry, which are harder and more complicated to deal with and leave aside the borrowed ones of the online display world -- which to our little pond, do not pose any risk.

1 comment about "'Below The Fold' Ad Placement: Real Threat Or Not?".
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  1. Nick Dimitrakiou from Convidence, June 5, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.

    are we really still talking about below the fold placements? suddenly feels like 1999 again

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