GroupM's Rob Norman: What's The Scroll Worth?

Rob Norman's a smart guy and the kind of fellow you’d want to have a pint with (yeah, he’s English), chat about advertising, hope not to go round and round in circles about advertising, and then wax on about exotic locales and tales from advertising’s underbelly.

As chief digital officer, GroupM and chairman, GroupM North America, Norman has to have more than a few of those tales, right? They might be in the vault, but after after a pint or two, they're bound to trickle out. [Full disclosure: this conversation was conducted on the phone -- no pints involved].

When RTBlog checked in with him, the conversation centered around viewability and what comes after it, the prospects for programmatic and feeds. Norman had plenty to say -- and frankly, as most people know, GroupM has led the conversation about viewability.

“Our [GroupM’s] concern is that publishers should only charge the advertiser when there’s a legitimate opportunity to see the ad,” he said. “It’s up to the advertiser to creatively capture that opportunity and it’s capturing the opportunity that turns into engagement or whatever proxy you choose.” Most troubling for advertisers, he said, is how many pieces of the value chain are between them and the money that ends up with the publisher. Think about that for more than a moment.



Feeds. They’re popular and here to stay. Watch anyone scroll through a feed -- how fast are those thumbs going?

So what’s a scroll worth? You know, the news feeds we incessantly scroll through on Facebook, etc. The scroll can be fast or slow and people definitely skip over ads and sponsored posts. “It’s harder to get in a scrolling environment than a static environment,” Norman noted. “You need astounding creative that stops the scroll or you have to modify the price.” What’s the opportunity to see the ads while scrolling? “We love feed-based media, but advertisers have to develop the right creative for it.”

The speed of the scroll sounds like a movie title, but Norman says it’s a huge issue for advertisers. “The user will scroll as fast as they want to do. Viewability in a scrolled environment is different,” Norman said.

On ad-blocking: “We understand the reasons for it. We need better design, a smarter use of data, privacy and tracking. The people who create the most valuable content will succeed.”

Does Norman think “attention” comes after viewability? “Attention is the same thing — it’s the opportunity to see. It’s our view that every piece of media is modified by attention, and engagement. And then, how much are you willing to pay?” Norman added.

On the prospects for programmatic TV (PTV), Norman maintains that you could say there’s no such thing as PTV because currently, you can’t dynamically serve ads into linear TV. But you can do addressable TV, and he’s excited about that. “It won’t be until TV is delivered via IP [internet protocol] that PTV comes to linear TV. It’s an issue of fact that we have an addressable marketplace, but we don’t have a PTV marketplace in TV,” Norman said. “You can’t dynamically insert real-time video into linear TV and therefore you can’t do PTV.”

With respect to display advertising and viewability, Norman outlined three stages:

Stage 1 is verification. Was the ad seen, and was it seen by a human?

Stage 2 is viewability. If any less than 100% of the pixels render in the viewable window, it doesn’t conform to the GroupM standard as it is not a legitimate opportunity to see an ad.

Stage 3 is how good is the opportunity to see the ad? “It’s our view that fast scroll or feed-based environments are a less than optimal opportunity to see. The value of those opportunities will be proven or disproven by results. The price advertisers will be prepared to pay will be modified by those results” Norman explained.

‘Beyond verification and viewability which we believe to be the responsibility of the publisher,” it’s up to the advertiser to create relevance, the creative partner to generate compelling communications and the media agency to implement the right targeting to drive attention, engagement and subsequent actions.

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