Report: AAAA Not Happy With IAB's 70% Viewability Standard

It’s never a good idea to announce what you can’t do. So when the Interactive Advertising Bureau basically admitted last week that for now, a little bit of dishonesty would have to do, you could have predicted someone would object.

That someone turned out to be the American Association of Advertising Agencies, probably with more to come.

About a week ago, the IAB issued its “State of Viewability Transaction 2015,” which concluded that since the industry can’t eradicate the viewability problem, everybody should live with it, with precautions and built-in fixes.

The report said the online industry should strive to have ad campaigns achieve a “70% threshold” in 2015, and that publishers should makegood any shortfalls on that with more ads, not just a cash outlay.

At the end of last week the AAAA sent out a letter last Friday to some members, according to The Wall Street Journal’s CMO blog, saying that wasn’t good enough for them and that it would “not endorse” the IAB guidelines.



The IAB throw-up-our-hands stance seemed odd to more than a few. “That’s not a ringing endorsement of the industry’s current state of being in the battle against viewability,” wrote MediaPost’s Tyler Loechner in a sharp piece about viewability that appeared on the weekend MediaPost site.

 He also pointed out that “having 2015 be classified as a transition year at the end of 2014, which was also referred to as a ‘transition’ year for viewability as 2013 came to a close, makes the road ahead look a lot longer, if at all traversable.”

Earlier in December, the Association of National Advertisers, working with the fraud-protection firm White Ops, concluded nearly 25% of video ad impressions and more than half of third-party sourced traffic is fraudulent. Bot fraud originates from malicious sites with phony ad traffic that passes through both legitimate and ‘phantom’ elements of the digital advertising ecosystem.  Fraudsters collect payments from advertisers for non-human impressions,” the report says.  

The Web site Adotas, a part of Kitara Media, today wrote: "Focusing on 35 major brand advertisers, the study found that while organized crime is often behind the bot biz, the execution of the fraud happens on home computers that have been hacked. Fully 67% of the bot traffic came from home IP addresses. Some bots could even take over mouse movements, slipping the cursor over ads."

Among the White Ops suggestions, was this seemingly curious advice: Advertise during waking hours. Bot levels vary throughout the day but the peak activity happens when users are sleeping but their computers are still “awake,” between midnight and 7 a.m.

It also advised to demand transparency. Indeed. The report has some eyeopeners. "Bots can make it look easy to reach high volumes of specific audiences. A bot can look like a sports fan, someone with a six-figure income, someone interested in buying a car, or a grandparent looking for holiday gifts for grandchildren," the White Ops report says. "White Ops has historically observed that campaigns around time-sensitive releases such as retail sales, movies, and TV shows are unusually vulnerable to bot activity because they have very specific delivery windows that can exacerbate the bot problem."

It continues: "For one beer/spirits participant, a bot spike occurred at the end of every week of a campaign, with bots spiking at noon (PST) on Saturday, uniformly increasing from zero to 800 bots per hour before dropping back to zero bots per hour after the peak at noon on Saturday. . . The bot spikes on Saturdays comprised 95% of all the bot fraud for this campaign."

And that's not all. One premium, well-known publisher in the lifestyle industry vertical employed a Web page layout consisting of a single large video player at the top of the page. Seemingly random selections of content surrounded the autoplaying video on the page," a case-study points out. "On this publisher page, video ads for an auto participant in the study were consumed by a 98%  bot audience. Out of almost 4,000 total video impressions from the placement, fewer than 100 were served to humans."

All in all, that’s damning, and depressing information that suggests advertisers are going to need to be tougher on this issue next year than they have been so far, and they’ve got the ammo. The ANA says as much as $6.3 billion worldwide can be lost to bots next year. Coupled with Sony’s problem with the North Koreans, it seems pretty clear the whole digital space faces a real urgent need to get the bugs and thugs out. And that’s easier said than done.  Which, of course, is what the IAB is saying, too. But no one wants to hear that excuse.       

4 comments about "Report: AAAA Not Happy With IAB's 70% Viewability Standard".
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  1. Matt Cooper from Addroid, December 22, 2014 at 2:10 p.m.

    What I don't get from this is what the AAAA proposes? Isn't the IAB just keeping' it real? I'm sure everyone wants to shoot for 100% but I think we can all agree that's going to take some work on the technical side and a lot of accountability on the publisher side. Ironically, if the agencies are not happy with losing 30% of their ad impressions they need to stop building ad units in Flash as mobile traffic to website is now at 30% on average and Flash of course is not compatible with those devices. That is something that they have 100% control of yet have failed to do. Of course the publishers don't have specs for HTML based ads because the IAB is struggling to stay current with their specs for Display in general. It's all a bit of a mess but I'd like to see more proposals for solutions from the market and less hollow objections.

  2. Pat Dunbar from DiMAS Group, December 22, 2014 at 2:25 p.m.

    Amen to Matt's comments! Let's all get real.

  3. Benny Radjasa from Armonix Digital, Inc., December 22, 2014 at 7:04 p.m.

    Matt most people in out industry is keeping it real, including myself. The issue here is, AAAA is an association that represent advertising agencies while the IAB is an association that represent publishers and other supply sources. As you can see they are polar opposite. The AAAA will not come out and say that they will compromise and accept 70% viewability. This would be akin to NBA player union to accept lower salary cap. Well anything is possible, if everyone needs to meet at the middle to ensure the survival of the their business, they will.

  4. Ben Trenda from isocket, December 22, 2014 at 10:33 p.m.

    1. It seems this discussion is conflating viewability with non-human traffic. They are not the same.
    2. However there is a correlation.
    3. The non-human traffic problem is nearly 100% solveable.
    4. We have observed significant viewability improvement, even on exchanges, when you target only verified humans.

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