Horizon Turns New Page In Programmatic, Guarantees Ad Is In-View Before Bid Is Made

Most agencies and trading desks say they only want to bid on digital advertising inventory that is actually viewable to the consumer, but now one can guarantee it. Independent media-buying giant Horizon Media has quietly been testing a new system it claims is the first to assure all the inventory it bids on is in-view when it is served to a user.

The system -- which was developed in conjunction with Horizon’s bidding agent, demand-side platform Turn, and analytics firm RealVu -- programmatically filters non-viewable inventory out of the mix before Horizon’s bids are made.

“We really don’t see any value in bidding on inventory that's not in-view, we’re trying to carve those impressions out and get it as close to 100% possible,” Donnie Williams, chief digital officer at Horizon, tells RTM Daily -- adding that since Horizon began piloting the program, it has achieved levels “north of 99%.”

The system, which doesn’t have a fancy new ad tech name or acronym, is basically a multi-layered approach that combines RealVu's “Content Rendering Control Technology” with Turn’s programmatic bidding algorithms to ensure that a bid is only made when it is detected as viewable to the consumer via RealVu’s technology. RealVu is the first analytics firm to be accredited by the ad industry’s Media Rating Council for a “viewable impression” metric.

Based on current industry standards, an online ad is deemed “viewable” if at least 50% of its content is visible to a user for at least one second. Horizon’s Williams says that is the minimum standard clients should expect to receive for ads they are buying, and he said the new system is a practical solution that will automate the process while creating greater “transparency” in the marketplace, reflecting the true value of ads that capable of being seen by consumers.

Describing the new system as a “perfect storm” of technology coming together, Williams says he hopes the industry moves past the current debates -- especially numerous conference panel discussions -- and simply moves to standardize methods like the RealVu/Turn solution.

“There’s a chain of people involved in order to make this work,” he said, noting that publishers need to embed RealVu’s code, for example. But Williams says it’s in the best interest of publishers to allow their inventory to be coded that way, as more advertisers, agencies and trading desks adopt viewability as their standard.

“We think that over time the yield will be better for publishers too,” he said, explaining that as more ad budgets are allocated only to viewable inventory it will create greater liquidity, which will push demand and prices up.

“Whether that's a bit of a higher premium from a bid standpoint right now, we don't know, but we know our clients are paying what they want for viewable ad impressions, and we believe that should be the standard for the rest of the industry.”

17 comments about "Horizon Turns New Page In Programmatic, Guarantees Ad Is In-View Before Bid Is Made".
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  1. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, January 27, 2014 at 10:10 a.m.

    Would love to know what percentage of publishers in Turn's exchange subscribe and implement the RealVu code. This concept is anything from new, as most DSP providers have had the ability to bid on Above the Fold only inventory for years - but again, that requires publishers to tag their inventory as ATF, and from our experience and conversations, only about half of them do that - so your inventory options are immediately cut in half. If RealVu has a huge market share, then this story is of interest...

  2. Suzanne Perry from Pace, Inc., January 27, 2014 at 11:50 a.m.

    This is interesting and I'm very curious to know what performance metrics were in place for testing the opportunity cost of this approach? Was there no value in data collection on non viewed impressions?

  3. Jimi Smoot from Prosperio, January 27, 2014 at 12:23 p.m.

    Interesting but this is like smelling meat at the supermarket to see if it is bad.

    The problem with RTB is that 2/3 of the ads aren't viewed. Thats alot of bad meat. Isn't it just time to go to a better supermarket?

    We, as an industry, need to have a better way to transact premium inventory. Not the smelly stuff on the exchanges.

  4. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, January 27, 2014 at 12:46 p.m.

    Jimi - we as an industry need to do a better job of not making up numbers as well. What is your source for 2/3 of exchange ads not viewed? Regardless of what the number is, "viewability" isn't just a programmatic issue, it's an industry issue. Traditional has the same problems when they sell ads off of rate bases and GRPs, so this isn't even limited to the internet. As for premium inventory, I think people are confused by terminology, as you can set up premium programmatic buys on a direct relationship that leaves out the exchanges. So if the "beef" is with exchanges, programmatic can still be the better supermarket you're after.

  5. Robert Brill from BrillMedia.co, January 27, 2014 at 2:43 p.m.

    The challenges with these new tech solutions - which are certainly important evolutions for our business - are cost and scale. Ad tech cost can't blow up the overall value proposition of buying the ad impression. Data costs come to mind here. Of course, the volume of impressions that are available, along with overall publisher participation, will make or break the viability of this offering.

  6. Jimi Smoot from Prosperio, January 27, 2014 at 4:13 p.m.

    @Michael - the 2/3 number is a comscore number. 31% viewable on exchanges/networks according to their "Viewability Benchmarks". You a right, my beef is with exchanges. We are bullish on premium programmatic and have invested heavily in delivering a platform to market that supports it :)

  7. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, January 27, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.

    I have a love hate relationship with stats :) Here is the article Jimi is referencing: http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Viewability_Benchmarks_Show_Many_Ads_Are_Not_In-View_but_Rates_Vary_by_Publisher

    Yes, there's a 31% figure, but it's for networks and exchanges, and in their definition, something that sells for over $5 CPM's and $100,000 is what is considered premium. So people are building stats just to prove their point, as I can negotiate sub $5 CPM's on above the fold, viewable inventory - but b/c of the rate, it would no longer be considered "premium" (well - to my clients it would).

    The industry to me is going through a transformation, I've noticed a number of sites where the banner ads don't load until you scroll down, etc... Viewability has always been an issue as I stated earlier, what's interesting is as Suzanne points out - even if your ads aren't viewed, there's still value in the data that you just collected...

  8. Jimi Smoot from Prosperio, January 27, 2014 at 4:49 p.m.

    @Michael - Yes the data is valuable, but how valuable? Do you think that there is enough value to warrant running a % of the overall budget with the soul objective of data collection? If so, how would brands respond to this? Im not trying to get pointed, just curious.

  9. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, January 27, 2014 at 4:53 p.m.

    Nope - no offense taken, I wonder the same thing! Obviously, having the data is one thing - but if they don't act on your ad (or even see your ad), then do you really care about the data? I tend to think you do a little bit, but was curious on Suzanne's take? To me, if we lost the impression, it's more of a consolation prize to have the data - but definitely not something I'd willingly pay/budget for.

  10. Nate Carter from Mediassociates, January 27, 2014 at 5:14 p.m.

    Looking forward to TV stations selling only viewable impressions.

  11. Laurent Nicolas from Alenty, January 28, 2014 at 6:21 a.m.

    You can expect 95% viewability rate, not 100%.
    Between the moments when the bid is made and when the viewability threshold is reached (1 second AFTER the ad is loaded), 5% of pages will be left or scrolled down.
    But still, this is a very nice move!

  12. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, January 28, 2014 at 12:26 p.m.

    Bill Bernbach would read this and ask: What are you talking about?

  13. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, January 28, 2014 at 5 p.m.

    I looked at it, and I said: What are you talking about? Must call media person daughter-in-law; maybe she knows.

  14. Lee Sparaga from 24/7 Real Media, January 28, 2014 at 5:11 p.m.

    Hard for anyone to argue that paying only for impressions that are actually viewed is a bad thing. Biggest issue is standardization and fixing the massive variances between the companies measuring. I also think another interesting angle to keep an eye on is the impact, if any, on post-click/view performance for DR focused advertisers. And watching how brands react if in fact, the elimination of out of view ads, has a material impact on ROI. Either way, will be interesting to watch and definitely a move in the right direction by this agency IMO.

  15. Asif Ali from Reduce Data, January 28, 2014 at 6:32 p.m.

    Since Turn is a DSP and they work with exchanges, I am wondering how have they been able to get their publishers to embed a tag because without that this kind of a system may not work.

    Otherwise, I am guessing that this is a predictive system that predicts the probability of viewability which also sounds interesting.

  16. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., January 28, 2014 at 8:20 p.m.

    @Anne Peterson: really sorry about that. The simple version is that Horizon cobbled together technology to ensure it only bids on the right to serve ads on Web pages that are in-view of a consumer, meaning they are actually visible on the page they are browsing and not (below the fold - or a portion of the screen they are not looking at).

  17. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, February 3, 2014 at 1:08 p.m.

    @Joe Mandese Thanks. Now it all makes sense.

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