Commentary

Viewability Is More Of A 'Commercial Discussion,' Says GroupM's Joe Barone

Viewablity and ad blocking—two hot topics that ad-tech and media conferences can never seem to get enough of—took center stage on Tuesday at the Ops conference, an event sponsored by Ad Monsters. 

During a session called “Two-Headed Beast: Viewability And Ad Blocking,” agency vet Joe Barone, managing partner, digital advertising operations, GroupM, made a key distinction between the viewability and ad-blocking issues.

“I would say the biggest difference between viewability and ad blocking is that viewability is a commercial discussion and ad blocking is about the consumer,” Barone said. He meant that ad blocking is a signal directly from the consumer about what he or she is feeling. Bottom line: You can’t ignore the consumer.

Barone cited Forbes as an example of a publisher that’s taking the ad-blocking threat seriously and digging in to find out what’s going on. Mark Howard, Forbes’ chief revenue officer, sat onstage with Barone and told the audience that he’s supporting LEAN, an acronym for light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads, a program led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). However, Howard noted, while LEAN will take a long time to come to fruition, it’s a “huge first step.” He said publishers and the industry need to start promoting and evangelizing LEAN. True.

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Meanwhile, Forbes has been conducting tests, in phases, with respect to ad blocking. MediaPost’s Laurie Sullivan reported on these tests earlier this year. Howard said that in one of the test phases, Forbes found that nearly 40% of those polled understand that content isn’t free and is supported by advertising.

“You need to give people an option, a value exchange or choice as to whether they want to pay for content, which means having no ads, or if they want to get content for free, which means receiving ads,” Barone said.

“We work closely with the IAB, and LEAN is the best way for publishers to operate within certain parameters,” Howard said. “We’ve studied creative of all different file sizes and looked at the view rates, interaction rates, interaction times and looked at ad spec sizes, and what did we see? The bigger units are a double-edged sword,” he said. He means that while consumers tend to have high engagement with large ad units with visuals, sound and motion, the file sizes can be a problem in terms of slow load times and latency. The longer something takes to load, the lower the view rate.

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