That is pretty much a summary of a very interesting chat I had the other day with Nick Morley, the MD at Integral Ad Science. The pretext was the company being named as a trusted partner for Google on brand safety and viewability. However, as often happens with a partnership announcement, the more interesting part comes when you move from talking about the due diligence that has lead a tech giant to name an ad tech outfit as a partner and shift to where the industry is headed.
Nick sums this up neatly as digital marketing leaders wanting to move on and change the conversation. "They've not had any wish to chat about the technicalities of brand safety and viewability but they've had to because they've been the big issues of the day," he says. "Ultimately, they want to move on whether their advert has been seen in a safe place by a human being to whether it's been effective."
I've been vocal for the past couple of years this has to involve an element of time, and this is exactly the area Nick sees the industry moving. The elephant in the room in any chat about viewability is that half an ad's pixels being viewable for a second, or two for video, is a pretty low benchmark. It's pretty much a hygiene metric. At some stage an add flashed up for as much a second, or at least half of it did, and then something else may have happened.
It surely stands to reason that if a targeted audience is served an advert and it appears on screen for longer than the minimum standard, it has to have more of an effect. In fact, in research carried out by Integral Ad Science and IPG Media Lab, it was shown that a 3% ad recall for ads that met MRC standards, shot up in its research to 17% for a five-second exposure.
The next stage is using advertisers' data to show that this better ad recall through a longer exposure can lead to something tangible, such as conversions, newsletter sign-ups and the like.
Nick reveals this is the focus now of the conversations he has with digital marketers and once the correlation between time and better outcomes can be shown he believes brands will pay improved CPMs for targeted audiences being exposed to their messaging for longer. This is, at the same time, the subject of conversations he's having with publishers too. Quality publications have the eyeballs but they need a way to raise CPMs because many feel they are lumped in to, or are at least competing with, a mass of content which is not often identified as being of lower quality.
Show advertisers the gains from longer exposures and allow publishers to measure this accurately and both will see their goals hit. Brands can focus spend where it is most effective and publishers can demonstrate their targeted audiences are worth more and so raise CPMs.
The missing ingredient here is time. Once we've got multiple vendors with the tech in place to near as damn ensure that ads are seen in brand-safe environments by humans, the missing ingredient becomes time. So as ad tech companies become more certified and named as partners of the big tech giants, expect to see a shift in the conversation from the technicalities of media hygiene to effectiveness, and expect to see time play a large role.