Viewability And Fraud Need To Be Prioritised - Then We Can Talk About Programmatic Data and Transparency

Programmatic is going to be the talk of the year, namely where it needs to improve to deliver on its full potential. There will be many column inches devote to this, quite rightly, but the one big takeaway is that, from the advertising industry side, there really is a cojoined area that stands out -- viewability and fraud.

Okay -- so data is huge too, but I'd make a point that if you don't combat fraud first, you'll be discussing protecting, accessing and interrogating data that is misleading because it has been gleaned without having first tackled fraud and viewability.

If you want proof of how important fraud is, cast your mind back to endless reports last year suggesting that as much as a half of display advertising is never viewable in the first place -- or if it is viewable, is only seen by a fraudster's click bot. I'm always surprised that brands aren't more vocally annoyed by this. The voice of advertisers in Britain, ISBA, channels their discontent eloquently for them, but it's pretty rare to see a major brand's CMO complain that they are spending money on inventory that is never seen. Is it perhaps a little like companies quietly firing internal fraudsters who typically pay suppliers they have secretly invented. To the outside world it's always said they didn't want a fuss, but the reality is they generally don't want to appear to be so stupid as to have let a junior accounts clerk divert thousands to themselves via a person who only existed in their minds, and on the company's books.

So for me, one of the areas to look at here is what the ad tech guys are saying. For them, viewability is not a theoretical debate about what works best and what doesn't -- it's their livelihood. 

One announcement caught my eye today. In what looks like an interesting triumph for the European ad tech scene, courtesy of Germany, Meetrics has just announced its viewability technology has just become, what it claims to be, the first system endorsed by the Media Rating Council in the USA for both display and video. it uses page browsing behaviour technology, developed at the prestigious MIT, to determine whether ads are viewable by humans so brands know their metrics are more accurate and are assured their budget is being better optimised.

For the record, the company estimates that on average, between 40 to 60 percent of ads are never viewable. It's still a staggering statistic, even if you opt for the lower end. It's one of those numbers you just have to apply to everyday life and imagine bars charging for a pint while serving a half, or trains taking Londoners to Manchester dropping everyone off in Birmingham.

So, with such statistics commonly accepted for just how poor viewability has become, you can rest assured that the year ahead will see a flurry of announcements and deals as advertising platforms seek to assure media buyers and their brands that they aren't being short-changed.

Yes, data and billing transparency are huge issues that programmatic has to address, but to my mind, you need to know you're actually charging clients for what they receive, and not what disappears in to the ether and in to the clutches of click-fraud botnets. Only then does the data truly mean something -- and only then can you actually have a meaningful discussion around transparency and billing. 

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