Each week in July, we’ll be taking one of the four biggest issues in mobile advertising right now – ad blocking, viewability, ad fraud and brand safety – and examining it close up. To accompany these pieces, we've reached out to some industry experts to give us their perspective on the key issues affecting mobile marketing today.
If you've read our Big Issues piece earlier this week, you'll know that it doesn't matter how big the screen of your smartphone gets, viewability is always going to be a huge issue for mobile marketers, on both the mobile web and in-app.
With contradictory definitions, differing methodologies and a variety of platforms now offering "100 per cent guaranteed viewability", who can marketers really trust when it comes to knowing if their ads have been seen, and more importantly engaged with, by consumers?
Stephanie Emmanouel, general manager, connected customer marketing, Somo:
There's been a shift from measuring served impressions to viewed impressions, meaning that upwards of 70 per cent of all impressions in any campaign should have 50 per cent of pixels in view for at least one second in display.
When buying on a CPM this becomes extremely important to a campaign, but when you look at CPC/CPI buying there is reduced risk on the advertiser and viewability becomes less important. It's becoming more common when buying on CPC to have double click verification process which helps distinguish the fraudulent and bot activity from human interactions, but this does mean the risk is on the network or partner/publisher rather than advertiser.
There is a key question around who is responsible for measuring viewability too – is it the responsibility of the publisher or the advertiser? There are also issues around which 3rd party would be verified to track this, and a mutual decision would have to be made from both advertiser and publisher.
Whilst lots of companies recently announced that they intend to offer 100 per cent viewability guarantee on mobile inventory, we still have to question this. How will they guarantee this – by selling on a viewable metric rather than on impressions served, which could turn into a game changer for advertisers moving forward, but what about publishers – will they get on board with this due to the risk that could result in lower revenue for them?
Phil Gale, director of ad operations, EMEA, Phunware:
Viewability has to be one of the hottest topics in 2015, but given the amount of attention it has had recently, we still don't seem to be any closer in solving the dichotomy. Despite the lack of industry standards around tracking viewability, a key question remains: should publishers be allowed to bill on non-viewable impressions?
Publishers claim they are aware of the viewable/non-viewable ratio of impressions served and they price their CPM accordingly. If their average viewability is 60 per cent, they drop their rate by 40 per cent, which means it all averages out. If forced to bill on only viewable impressions, advertisers would have to expect an increase in CPM to accommodate the loss of revenue.
However, from an advertiser perspective, there is still a feeling that they are being cheated when forced to pay for an impression that was never viewed.
The real impact of allowing non-viewable impressions is felt when assessing the campaign performance, as non-viewed impressions do not generate clicks. Therefore, as the advertiser will typically assess the campaign on served impressions (which includes non-viewed), it results in a lower CTR than if the campaign was assessed on viewed impressions only.
Therefore, until advertisers can measure and assess campaigns on viewed impressions only, it is in the publisher's interest to minimise the amount of non-viewed impressions to ensure they generate the highest CTR possible for their campaigns.
Steve Chester, director of data and industry programmes, IAB UK:
'Now you see it, now you don't!' A catchphrase popularised by magicians but also used more recently by some marketers to demonstrate their opinion that the viewability guidelines for desktop released last year were too low.
However, it is important to understand that viewability is an 'opportunity to see' the ad – it does not establish whether or not the ad has actually been seen and what effect it had on the consumer. The guidelines are there as a minimum agreed benchmark for marketers to to use.
Viewability is a subjective matter dependent upon many things – the messaging, branding of the campaign and the placement/format of the ad to name but a few variables. Every brand will need to determine for themselves what their effective viewability is and work in partnership with the agency and publisher partners to deliver against this. Think of Cillit Bang vs the Volvo ad featuring martial arts titan Jean Claude Van Damme. Arguably for the former, the look, style and audio are very distinctive and quickly recognisable. For the latter, it takes nearly 30 seconds for the Volvo brand to appear and a full minute before the campaign messaging is revealed.
A key challenge facing the industry at the moment is consistent measurement of ad viewability, with discrepancies between vendors as high as 60 per cent, making it challenging for buyers and sellers to agree on what ads have and haven't been seen.
JICWEBS (the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards), comprised of five cross-industry trade bodies including the IAB, has recently updated the UK viewability principles to require vendors seeking certification to implement recommendations to align how they count and report viewability to reduce these discrepancies. This re-certification is taking place over the summer, while certification and guidelines for mobile are being developed and will follow over the next few months.
Kathy Pattison, senior vice president of marketing, Fiksu:
When it comes to mobile, the assumption is that viewability issues are similar to those of the desktop. While it's likely that ads served on the mobile web run the risk of going unseen at more or less the same rates as those run on a desktop browser, dismissing mobile entirely over reservations about the mobile web is ignoring a huge component of what makes mobile, well, mobile.
Of the 117 minutes (and growing) spent per day on mobile devices, 86 per cent is in apps – not the mobile web. Apps are launched by people, virtually guaranteeing in-app ads are shown to live human beings. Unlike the desktop browser where ads running below the fold run the risk of never being seen, most in-app ads, whether they're video, banner or other forms, are served on the visible screen.
Last year, mobile internet usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time, and it's a gap that is only expected to widen. Mobile is the future – one customers are guaranteed to see.
James Ebdon, marketing director, Freeformers:
In relative terms, mobile advertising is still a very new and exciting space. It brings its own opportunities and challenges, and one that's been with us since the very beginning is how we identify and measure the results and actions that really matter.
The widespread recognition that an ad served and an ad viewed are two very different things is a big – but predictable – step in the right direction to help make meaningful transactions between advertisers and audiences, and to reduce ad fraud.
The organisations striving to set clear benchmarks for what constitutes an ad viewed and therefore what counts as an impression are doing crucial work to introduce clear, reasonable standards and best practices as the industry matures.
Jon Buss, managing director, Northern Europe, Criteo:
While online advertising is not bound by footfall in the same way that billboards in Times Square and Piccadilly Circus are, for brands it's both a blessing and a curse. Advances in ad technology have made it possible to serve personalised ads and provide consumers with recommendations as they move around the web. While this continues to generate significant revenue for brands, the proliferation of devices – and resultant increase in content consumption – has heightened the battle for ad views.
According to our latest State of Mobile Commerce Report, people in the UK are increasingly shopping from their mobile devices. In fact, there is a growing trend towards consumers globally using multiple devices on their path to purchase. Criteo's research shows mCommerce making up the majority of worldwide eCommerce transactions in Q2 2015, and that trend will only continue as mobile transactions become the standard. Marketers need to ensure that their ads and websites are mobile-optimised in order to compete for consumers' views.
Personalisation is vital to viewability on any device. It's clear that getting mobile right is essential but as consumers hit saturation point from constant consumption of content around them, brands need to shift focus to following pairs of eyes, rather than single devices.