A new whitepaper released by comScore argues that online ad inventory is conventionally, but falsely, viewed as infinite, because the industry is accustomed to measuring ad impressions, whether or not they were actually viewable by a real person in the target market. As a result, comScore is proposing a new metric.
Simply measuring impressions gives the, er, impression that there is limitless online ad inventory, which thereby drives pricing down. As comScore puts it, “an ad [that] is delivered but never seen has zero potential” to improve the advertisers branding or sales metrics. Ad impressions that falsely drive up inventory include those outside of the advertisers desired geographic market, those placed beside content “unsafe” for the brand, those that are not completely rendered, and those generated by non-human traffic such as search engines or robotic fraud servers.
To step forward, comScore is suggesting the ad industry take a step back, and start measuring digital ad supply based only on what users can actually see, in a manner similar to how television ad inventory is counted. This method involves counting viewable impressions, which, comScore says, is a better measure of inventory.
In one study, comScore reports that 31 percent of ad impressions were not in-view, as measured by the 3MS standard (ad must be 50% visible for 1 second or more) and therefore never had a chance to be seen. And 72 percent of campaigns had some ads delivered alongside inappropriate content. Out-of-geography impressions averaged four percent, and non-human traffic ranged from four percent to 11 percent.
Television ad inventory accounting is premised on an average of five hours of daily TV viewing with a limit of 32 spots per hour, generating, on average, a fairly stable number of 160 viewable spots per day. Unlike digital advertising, inventory is constrained, which supports pricing.
Counting digital ad impressions in a similar fashion, based on viewability, would introduce scarcity to the marketplace, support prices, and, most importantly, improve the value delivered to advertisers.
It’s an interesting idea, and one of the best approaches to dealing with the “unlimited” supply of online ad inventory I’ve seen. It’s worthy of consideration.