Editor's Note: This article has been updated to clarify that an increase in measurability -- not a decrease in fraud, as previously stated -- is the main reason why video viewability rates dipped in the second quarter of 2015. A decrease in fraud could have played a role as well, but if so, it did not have as much of an impact as the increase in measurability did. The article also said the viewability figures represented the inventory TubeMogul bought, when in fact the figures represented all available pre-roll inventory (whether or not that inventory was purchased by TubeMogul).
The question in programmatic video, posits TubeMogul, is no longer: “Is there enough inventory?” The question has shifted to: “What’s the best way to find the good stuff?”
The programmatic ad platform on Thursday released a report that examines U.S. data from the second quarter of 2015. There was a noticeable decrease in two key areas: The amount of inventory TubeMogul bought and viewability rates.
On the surface, these dips appear to show a stumble. But TubeMogul asserts it’s not indicative of less available inventory or lower-quality impressions. Rather, the company says it’s a result of a clean-up act and, ironically, improvement. Per TubeMogul, the dip in viewability is the result of an increase in measurability -- i.e. the amount of inventory that can be accurately measured for metrics such as viewability. A secondary reason could be TubeMogul's effort to buy less fraudulent inventory, among other reasons.
A company representative told Real-Time Daily that following TubeMogul’s research with Integral Ad Science -- which found that “human, completed views” are far and away the best metric to aim for -- the company increased its focus on “removing potentially fraudulent traffic, which oftentimes has high viewability rates.”
But the company said the main reason behind the dip is the increase in measurability. Essentially, the more inventory that's measurable, the more information the algorithms have to parse. Since the algorithms rely heavily on historical data, and historical data inherently does not exist for inventory that was not previously measurable, it takes time for metrics such as viewability to stabilize.
TubeMogul notes that only 25% of run of exchange pre-roll video inventory available for purchase during the second quarter of 2015 were viewable, down from 34% in the first quarter.
It's not the prettiest picture, but TubeMogul asserts the 25% figure doesn’t tell the whole story. As previously noted, the boost in measurability threw a wrench in the ratings. At this time last year, TubeMogul notes, only about two-thirds (65% to 70%) of inventory was measurable. However, over the past two or so months, about 90% of inventory has been measurable.
Additionally, run of exchange inventory is the lowest of the low. TubeMogul noted that the vast majority of its clients pick and choose inventory sources, and run of exchange is rarely a top option. Some of the other inventory TubeMogul buys, such as mobile inventory -- which now accounts for somewhere between 10% and 15% of the company’s total revenue, and growing -- is viewable over 70% of the time.
This shows that if viewability is what you're looking for, other formats are emerging that will quench your thirst. Exchanges, on the other hand, just don't fit the bill. With three quarters of video ads bought via run of exchange never even having a chance to be seen, it's hard for a video marketer to justify pumping spend into the open exchanges.
"We believe this quarter's viewability rate is a temporary phenomenon. As measurability improves and suspicious traffic is sniffed out and purged, viewability rates will naturally dip in the short term,” said David Burch, VP of global communications at TubeMogul. “As we noted last quarter, we believe that overall viewability rates are trending up and to the right as marketers refine optimization strategies and prioritize media quality."
Only time will tell if TubeMogul's is right in saying that viewability will rise again once measurability rates steady, but the fact the company posted strong second quarter earnings just last week lends credence to the reasoning. TubeMogul did not stumble its way through the quarter the way the viewability numbers might suggest. In other words, viewability rates decreased but TubeMogul's business increased, which indicates the "we're going backward because we're going forward" explanation -- confusing though it may be -- is logical.
Additionally, new data from Integral Ad Science, also released Thursday, indicates that the quality of programmatic video is improving. Integral's data notes that 37.2% of all video ads traded on networks and exchanges were viewable during the second quarter of 2015. (Keep in mind Integral's data deals with both networks and exchanges, while TubeMogul's regards run of exchange.)
Integral's data also shows that video fraud decreased from 14% to 11.6% quarter-over-quarter, and "brand risk" decreased from
22.7% to 15.4%.