Telegraph Sales Chief Calls for Consensus on Viewability Metrics

Telegraph May 2015Mike Buckley, digital commercial director at the Telegraph, outlined the publisher’s approach to programmatic at an Association of Online Publishers (AOP) event this afternoon, and also aired some of his frustrations, particularly around ad viewability.

He told delegates that 90 per cent of the Telegraph’s inventory can now be bought programmatically, and that he wants to increase the proportion to 100 per cent, but that homepage takeovers are currently the stumbling block. Officially, around 30 per cent of the inventory bought programmatically is brand advertising, Buckley said, adding that he believes the real figure is closer to 50 per cent.

But this is in the desktop world. Mobile, he said, lags behind. “We are seeing more demand [for programmatic] on mobile but not as much as you would expect,” he said. “The money is not following the eyeballs, and a lot of the [programmatic] spend on mobile is around DR (direct response). It is moving that way, but not quickly enough; a lot of creative agencies have not got their head around it.”

Buckley went on to say that around 40 per cent of the programmatic spend on the Telegraph is through the Private Marketplace (PMP) model. “We want to minimise how much inventory goes to the open auction,” he said. “PMP is growing at a huge rate and this is part of our strategy. We want to incentivise customers to buy this way, because we can have a direct dialogue with clients. When people are buying in the open marketplace, we do not the same level of transparency, so we cannot help them as much.” He added that a lot of trading desks are talking about taking inventory out of the open marketplaces.

It was when he moved on to the issue of viewability – defined by IAB as: “a minimum of 50 pixels in view for a minimum of one second”, and one of the hottest topics in digital advertising together with brand safety and ad fraud – that Buckley became particularly animated.

“We are expected to have high viewability scores, but I’m not sure because I have a million and one ways of measuring it,” he said. “There is no consensus on viewability. What a bloody mess it is…There are nine companies offering measurement, we are trialling four of them and we are seeing scores from 50 to 70 or 80 per cent. How on God’s earth and I supposed to trade on that? I can’t. The trade bodies need to sort it out and stop throwing stones at each other. They need to get together in a room and sort it out bloody quickly.”

Buckley’s candid views went down well in a room packed mainly with premium publishers. They also served to highlight the fact that, for all the excitement around programmatic, there are some bigger mobile advertising issues still to be resolved.