comScore Brings Pre-Bid Data To Programmatic Marketplace

The quality of inventory has been the Achilles heel of programmatic advertising, but comScore is hoping to help flip the script.

The audience measurement firm on Thursday announced the launch of an “Industry Trust” initiative to bring its advertising metrics directly to programmatic ad platforms as soon as this quarter, Real-Time Daily has learned. The idea is to give programmatic media buyers the ability to transact upon the same metrics for both programmatic and direct campaigns, including those available in comScore’s Media Metrix Multi-Platform and validated Campaign Essentials (vCE).

Cameron Meierhoefer, chief operating officer of comScore, spoke with Real-Time Daily about the initiative.

“As we look at the programmatic landscape, there have been a lot of challenges around providing assurances [regarding advertisers] buying what they thought,” he said. “Viewability and fraud have really dominated the landscape as people want to verify what they are paying for.

“A lot of the inventory that’s being traded tends to drive down the base cost of what a publisher can charge for inventory in this environment,” Meierhoefer continued. “So they’ve been holding back some of their best inventory.” 

For the initiative, Meierhoefer said comScore is starting with the publishers. The rise of programmatic has given birth to a host of new “metrics that matter” -- as Meierhoefer calls them -- including viewability, fraud rates, geo-data, audience data and more.

Beginning Thursday, comScore’s publishing partners will gain access to the statistics comScore has across their profiles, Meierhoefer said. The publisher can use that data to create “Trust Profiles” that will be made available to advertisers via select programmatic ad platforms, including MediaMath, Turn, The Trade Desk and Rubicon Project. Additional ad platforms are expected to gain access to comScore’s “Trust Profiles” in the near future.

Meierhoefer noted that this approach allows publishers to package their inventory the way they see fit, but gives advertisers the assurance -- by virtue of comScore’s status as a trusted third-party measurement firm -- that the numbers aren’t fudged. Advertisers will be able to buy ads against the profiles, which will essentially act as pre-bid data packets.

But while pre-bid data is not new to the programmatic marketplace, Meierhoefer asserted that comScore’s “Trust Profiles” will give advertisers additional layers of insight into the inventory they are buying before opening up their wallets.

Meierhoefer said most pre-bid data sets currently available are based on domains and URLs, whereas comScore’s “Trust Profiles” take a look under the hood of the URL, so to speak. Outside of fraud concerns such as URL masking -- which has hit advertisers hard before -- looking at pre-bid data based solely on domains and URLs carries certain risks, Meierhoefer noted.

Perhaps most importantly to programmatic advertisers, viewabiliy rates may be skewed when looking at domain based pre-bid data sets because all ads from the domain will be lumped together. In other words, above-the-fold and below-the-fold inventory would collectively, not individually, count toward that domain’s viewability rates. Meierhoefer called this “blended” data.

With comScore’s Trust Profiles, publishers will have the ability to choose how their inventory is displayed. “One scenario is a publisher may choose to bundle all of their high-end inventory,” explained Meierhoefer, building Trust Profiles based on that inventory only. “Then they may choose to continue to trade the below-the-fold stuff in a blind fashion.”

While comScore will allow publishers to showcase their inventory as they desire, Meierhoefer asserted the profiles are maintained by comScore independently. And as all of the profiles are based on comScore measurements, Meierhoefer said they can be compared to one another. Additionally, this makes it easier for advertisers to compare programmatic and direct campaigns side by side.

The idea behind it all is to give publishers the ability to see what their inventory is worth on programmatic exchanges and advertisers the peace of mind that they are indeed buying what they think. “It provides a bridge for the publishers to stand up and be accountable for their inventory and have that shared transparently,” said Meierhoefer.

Advertisers will be able to select categorical items when buying against the comScore Trust Profiles, Meierhoefer said. They could choose only to run against comScore top 100 news properties that meet their viewability and fraud thresholds, for example.

Ultimately, Meierhoefer said, any statistic that matters to programmatic marketers can be packaged and traded against.

[T]he importance of having third-party systems that are able to verify the quality of an ad impression cannot be understated,” stated Chris Victory, VP of global business development at MediaMath.

As dollars continue to shift to programmatic, it’s important that the advertising industry has a mechanism for uncovering and understanding quality inventory,” stated Randy Kilgore, president of national sales at Gannett. “The comScore Industry Trust is poised to do just that, and we’re excited about the benefits this initiative will bring to both buyers and sellers.”

In addition to Gannett, and comScore’s launch partners, other supporters of the initiative include AOL, SpotXchange, Eyereturn Marketing, Undertone, McClatchy Interactive, Index Exchange from Casale Media, American Media, Moguldom Media Group, Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith and GroupM.

“Giving premium publishers the ability to showcase their high-quality inventory using independent metrics will undoubtedly help them raise their value in the increasingly crowded programmatic supply landscape,” stated Andrew Casale, president and CEO of Index Exchange. “Enhancing transparency represents a step forward in raising the level of trust marketers have in the ecosystem.”

“Today’s announcement about comScore Industry Trust is only the beginning,” Meierhoefer wrote in a company blog post announcing the news. “We’ll be introducing additional products as part of Industry Trust later this year, all of which are designed to help both buyers and sellers create a higher quality programmatic environment.”

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