Nick Morley, EMEA managing director, Integral Ad Science looks at how today’s loss of trust in advertising will shape its future and how the future of the ecosystem depends on confidence, the ability to measure, and the ROI offered and what this means for video advertising.
This article is a continuation of the conversation Scott Knoll, CEO, IAS started at Festival of Media Global earlier this year:
Video’s winning streak keeps rolling. After overtaking banner ads for the first time last year, the format is set to take 24.5% of global ad spend this year, and is already on track to meet its ultimate goal: ensuring ads have the opportunity to be seen in full.
According to Integral Ad Science’s H2 2017 Media Quality Report, two-fifths (40%) of all video ad inventory is now in-view right through to the fourth quartile. This finding is not only testament to how quickly video engagement is rising — H1 rates for complete views averaged 10% lower than H2 — but also the impact of recent efforts to boost media quality.
Following mounting calls from the industry’s key advertisers for a clean-up, the ecosystem has swung into action: applying better measurement, implementing ad fraud prevention techniques and taking brand safety into consideration. And the result has been a performance spike for online ads, especially video.
But to understand what this means for video, and how the new landscape can be leveraged, we’ll need to explore the current state of play in greater detail.
Viewability is improving
Video advertising has become increasingly complex. There are not only more video players, but also a greater variety of technical standards — covering everything from delivery and interactivity to verification — and this makes it hard to measure areas such as viewability. But progress is in motion. For example, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has enhanced simplicity by pulling restrictive VPAID specifications (Video Player Ad Interface Definitions) and advocating use of the more flexible VAST 4.1 (Video Ad Serving Template). Social titans have opened up to independent auditing by the Media Rating Council (MRC). Plus, the IAB Tech Lab has governed the open source mobile SDK to allow consistent viewability measurement across in-app inventory – this functionality has the potential to apply to video in future.
These efforts to align the industry and create standards has lead to video ads sustaining higher levels of viewability, and for longer duration. The latest Media Quality Report from Integral Ad Science shows that viewability during the final quartile of video ads in the UK was 37.9% on desktop, up from 33.1% during H1 2017. Alongside this, global mobile web video viewability in the final quartile rose from 31.6% in H1 to 41.4% in H2 2017; highlighting that nearly one third of UK consumers are watching video to completion while on the go. What’s more, increased regulation of programmatic inventory — largely via adoption of initiatives such as the IAB’s RTB (Real-Time Bidding) Framework — also seems to be closing the gap between publisher direct and programmatic trading. For video specifically, desktop video viewability rates increased proportionally by 23.6% since H1 for programmatic buys. While in publisher direct buys, viewability levels also increased, however, an ascent of only 9.9% was found.
Brands are thinking safer
In the wake of multiple high profile issues with ad misplacement and fake news, the industry is acutely aware that its sustainability depends on providing better clarity. Consequently, the last 18 months have seen an increase in efforts to boost transparency and accountability. Leading players such as Facebook and Google have agreed to support the IAB Gold Standard, which encourages industry players to register with JICWEBS and show implementation of ads.txt – a text file that lists all those authorised to sell certain inventory – where possible. Indeed, the two organisations have also taken a firm stance against low quality media; with Google adapting search algorithms to demote bogus content, and Facebook implementing trust indicators. And that’s not to mention the spike in the use of third-party verification by the major platforms, including Twitter.
Once more, it looks as though the hard work is paying off. The latest Media Quality Reports show that between H1 and H2 2017 the risk posed to UK brands for video ads fell from 13.1% to 12.2%, a decrease of nearly 7%.
Ad fraud is declining
Fraudsters have plagued the digital advertising ecosystem for a number of years and as technology has become more sophisticated, the impact of their activities has grown. But initiatives designed to tackle ad fraud have advanced too. New partnerships have formed between JICWEBS and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) to boost collective resources, and studies have shown that those abiding by TAG rules have an invalid traffic rate of 1.48% for video display inventory, which is 83% less than the industry average.
So, it’s no surprise that the Media Quality Report reflects these optimistic trends, with UK video ad fraud decreasing in the second half of 2017 by over a quarter (27.2%) across buy types, with the overall number falling from 6.4% in H1 2017 to 4.7% in H2 2017.
What does it all mean?
In short, the current state of video presents a range of opportunities for marketers to build effective and measurable campaigns. The longer answer to this question requires a closer look at the three pillars of media quality. Firstly, the fact viewability is increasing and ads are staying visible not only bolsters the opportunity to be seen, but also presents a chance for marketers to make a stronger lasting impression by telling longer, more engaging stories. Moreover, the uptick in programmatic viewability also means that those previously deterred from investing in automated buying can be more confident of the buying method, thereby maximising scale and efficiency.
Secondly the reduction in risk to brand safety opens the door to enhance the scope of video ad campaigns: targeting a broader range of sites and categories without fear of negative brand connotations. And this brings us to point number three; a steady reduction in video ad fraud indicates marketers are more likely to reach genuine audiences — not bots — and drive results that increase the bottom line.
Overall, the signs are pointing to a bright future for video in 2018 and beyond. But while the industry’s work to overhaul the supply chain, improve transparency, and fight ad fraud have generated impressive results, the ecosystem isn’t perfect yet. In this fast-moving industry, it’s possible we could start to see a shift in focus emerge, highlighting just how important a holistic view of the ecosystem is to understand challenges and optimise marketing efforts for every platform – be that video, mobile, desktop, audio, OOH, etc. It’s therefore crucial to avoid sliding into complacency and keep striving to create an environment where unbiased measurement, and verified media are the norm that promote absolute trust.