In a market of incomplete information, you can claim anything. That’s how ads are called “viewable” when they really are not. As a buyer of ads, especially a buyer who is buying on a real-time bidding (RTB) platform, you could be buying anything. In this scenario, the best case is that the ad isn’t seen. The worst case is that it is seen someplace you didn’t intend it to go.
This is going to be especially true on video pages, which are heavy traffic draws. If you as an advertiser are buying for reach, you are probably buying on numbers of impressions. But your ad is likely to go through four or five networks from the one on which you bought it to the site where it actually runs. And all of this is done in near-real time, by algorithms untouched by human hands.
Sure, there’s ad verifying software, and it helps a bit, but the ad verifiers often can’t see the ads either. They claim that they can see through iframes to the actual place an ad appears, but most browsers no longer allow that. Instead, those verifiers may generate dummy impressions, for which you have to pay. The more networks and exchanges that get between advertiser and publisher, the less it is possible with current browsers to “jump the frames” and tell where the ad is appearing.
Publishers are beginning to install code so their own inventory can be identified. Otherwise the advertiser has paid, but the publisher may not receive the revenue.
In a perfect world where a publisher sells directly to a trading desk, ads can be verified. How often does THAT happen nowadays? We’re trying to make that happen at ZEDO by assuring advertisers who buy ZINC formats to run on our ZEDO premium network that there will be no other middlemen, and that they will not be buying programmatically but buying direct. In the past few years, we’ve put a great deal of time and effort, as well as research and development, into developing a network that can assure ad buyers reach, without sacrificing safety. In this way, our publishers also stand to combat the falling prices sometimes attributed to programmatic buying.