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IAB OK’s Trading on Viewability

For three years, we’ve been screaming that in digital advertising, there’s no such thing as “below the fold,” with its devalued impressions. We asserted that if an ad is seen by a visitor,it should be paid for. Now, IAB‘s new standard has directed that this should and will happen. Above and below the fold will no longer be the determinant. The new determinant will be viewability.

The IAB, after much sturm und drang ( 18 months of committee meetings and discussions at leadership summits)  released its standard for viewable display impressions last week. As expected, a viewable ad is one in which a minimum of 50 percent of pixels are in view for a minimum of 1 second. It doesn’t matter where that ad is placed on the site.

This shouldn’t be news to any of us; we have been following the issue of viewability and wondering when advertisers would start buying for it. Now that the Media Rating Council has lifted its November 2012 Viewable Impression Advisory for Display Advertising, the industry should start making transactions using viewable impression currency immediately.

IAB has a list of vendors certified by the MRC, and although their measurements can vary plus or minus five per cent, agencies with brand advertising campaigns will expect guarantees on viewable impressions. As for ZEDO, we’ve been working with comScore since it was AdXpose, and our high impact formats are all certified 99% viewable.

However, the bad news is all of this applies only to display advertising for now; video won’t be available for trading until June and video is the fastest growing segment of the online advertising business right now.

As IAB’s Sherrill Mane wrote,

Publishers who have been testing display viewability data know all too well that the investment in resources is substantial. You need to finance purchase of data from multiple measurement vendors, assign the right teams of people to develop test parameters, conduct enough comparisons so that you have an idea of how to forecast inventory and optimize yield. Even if all the steps are executed well, you are likely seeing variances across vendors. Some of the variances may be greater than what you’d need for confidence in the decisions you need to make.

Before you go nuts trying to decide which vendor you are going to use to measure viewability, you might want to take a look at IAB’s reconciliation study, which examines the different methodologies used by the vendors.

If you happen to like comScore, all currently used ZEDO high impact formats are certified by comScore.

 

 

We Play it Straight: Our Stance on Fraudulent Traffic

We’re not fans of overgeneralization, nor of oversimplification. Alex Kantrowitz’s post on ad fraud contains both. In addition, it is incredibly cynical and tars the entire industry with the same brush. Here’s a sample:

Purging fraudulent impressions from the system would mean higher media prices and lower performance (though more accurate). Fraud pumps up publishers’ traffic, exchanges get paid a percentage for trading it, buying platforms’ performance looks better because of it, and agencies can bring those great results to clients. Everyone wins!

We’re not denying that ad fraud exists in the industry. But we’ve been in business since 1999, primarily as an ad server for publishers and a partner to help them adjust to the realities of the digital world. We were there when ad fraud first began, and because our positioning depended on helping our publishers, we got busy on combatting it almost immediately.

Because, you see, fraud doesn’t pump up publishers’ traffic if advertisers won’t pay for the ads. Once again, we were early to notice that our publishers weren’t getting paid for ads that weren’t clicked on. And now they’re not getting paid for ads that aren’t viewable.

We partnered with DoubleVerify and AdXPose (now comScore), and worked with every industry group to fight spam, fraud, and malware. In fact, we had, and still have, an employee dedicated to industry efforts to professionalize ad tech and weed out the scammers. But if you take the trouble to run Ghostery on any of our publisher sites, you will still find a myriad of trackers and ad networks besides ours.

For example, the site shown below has 110 trackers of various kinds, some of which could be fraudulent. But how can you weed them out if you are honest? The answer is, you can’t. Between the marketer and the publisher are 110 entities dropping cookies, selling data, and potentially committing ad fraud.  These are all the entities in the famous Lumascape. Much traffic that hits a publisher site does not even go through our ad server, so there’s nothing we can do individually.

110 Trackers on one News Site

On our own network, we do weed out fraudulent traffic. For us, refunds for fraud traffic are a contractual obligation, as Kantrowitz suggests they should be.

“Harvard professor and ad-fraud researcher Ben Edelman suggests making refunds for fraud traffic a contractual obligation. “In practice right now, you promise to deliver it, you don’t quite deliver it, people shrug, the world moves on,” he said.”

We’re not trying to say that ad fraud doesn’t exist, or that it is not important. But we are saying that condemning the entire industry doesn’t fix the problem and just makes the people who play it straight mad.

Viewable Impressions? We’ve Got Them

Last week, we took the wraps off the new ZEDO. The new ZEDO is more than an ad server, more than a partner for publishers — it is a partner to the entire publishing and advertising ecosystem, an ecosystem that has been struggling for a decade with disruption.

On the publisher side, content is always regarded as king, but supporting it has become more and more challenging. On the brand side, marketers know intuitively that putting the right message in front of the right customer at the right time increases conversions, but traditional online advertising has an abysmal success record. A year ago, we set ourselves the task of fixing what’s wrong with online advertising — with the goal of making it as effective as TV.

Get ready for viewable impressions. Comscore is starting to talk about them, but ZEDO can supply them.  A well-kept secret is that we’ve been working with Comscore since the early days of AdxPose, and we were one of the first to ensure that our impressions were viewable. And now, with our new high impact formats, we can guarantee 99% viewable impressions. Measurable. Repeatable. No wonder we are excited.

We are rolling out an entire series of high impact tablet, mobile, and video ad formats for publishers to choose from. Many are video, all are optimized for tablets and mobile. They’ve got contemporary names like the Inview Slider and the Shuffle — they dance across the page and attract viewers’ attention with their creativity, rather than their intrusiveness.

The launch of our viewable impressions suite of formats comes before the launch of our new web site and identity for a reason: we want to show you that there’s substance behind our new brand. We’re not the old ZEDO, server of ads since 1999. We’ve been looking at what the advertising industry needs, what savvy marketers want, and we’re creating that for them. Brands don’t want conventional display ads; they know those don’t work. And they don’t want anything that will not be seen.

It’s time to move away from the print publishing metaphors — above and below the fold, direct marketing and branding –and get into the innovative formats our global engineering staff can deliver. We’re in the process of gathering a group of case studies based on the successes of our beta testers.

But wait! There’s more! Subscribe to the blog for updates on ZEDO.


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New Ad Technologies Work Connect Readers to Advertisers

Every once in a while, it’s good to be reminded that the goal of a newspaper, although it may seem to be just delivering news to readers, is also to deliver readers to advertisers. Traditionally, content in newspapers has been subsidized by ad revenue, and for the past decade the way advertisers connect to their readers has been shifting — first from print to online, and now from search to display, and from “one price fits all” to real time auctions.

One of the newest trends, the rise of Real Time Bidding (RTB) in which inventory from publishers is sold by auction in real time, has begun to change how readers are delivered.

A user heads to a page on a publisher’s website, causing it to start loading. In the same instant the publisher sends out a ‘bid request’ to thousands of potential advertisers saying, “We’ve got this user who is 30, male and based in New Jersey, US, and in the past has searched for return air tickets to London, visiting a page on our site. How much are you willing to bid for being the only ad on this page?”

Within about 100 milliseconds the publisher ad server (like ZEDO) gets bids from different advertisers, which it then analyses to figure out the highest bidder. The winner is alerted by the publisher and allowed to place its ad on the page.

The remarkable thing about this entire process is how fast and how often it takes place. The entire series of to-and-fro communication between publisher and advertisers takes place in 300-500 milliseconds, causing no visible delay to the user.

The process is repeated for every ad on the page, and it connects the “right” reader with the “right” (targeted) ad.

In the US, IDC estimates that real time advertising will grow at a compounded rate of 71 per cent in the US until 2015 and end up being 27 per cent of the overall online ad spending. In Europe, growth is expected to be even faster — above 100% annually.

The prices that publishers receive from these auctions are not yet very exciting. But they will grow. The gating factor is how willing publishers are to spend on new technology. We think the publishers will realize that there’s more to online advertising than the old standard 3 ad sizes, and will begin to monetize their sites with innovative formats like our InView Formats, TVAds OnPage, and other eye-catchers. That inventory is more effective and in short supply. Therefore the auction will generate higher prices for publishers.

Related articles:
ZEDO’s New InView Slider Runs on Any Ad Server (zedo.com)
Internet Ads Can (and Will) be As Effective as TV (zedo.com)
Publishers: Now You Can Monetize Below the Fold (zedo.com)

Comscore, Google Analytics Give Advertisers Better Information

Google has made updates to Google Analytics that will make it easier to use and more useful to

Image representing Google Analytics as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

marketers. Google’s 2012 updates come on the heels of Comscore’s announcement about its vCE (Validated Campaign Effectiveness) platform, and they work together to help publishers maximize revenue and advertisers make better buys.

Here’s what the Google Analytics blog says:

Vanity counters, such as friend counts and reshares, will be augmented with bottom line metrics like conversions and purchases, allowing marketers to measure true social ROI of each campaign and compare the effectiveness with other channels. With additional visibility into off-site activity, enhanced campaign tracking and referral analytics, 2012 is the year that social analytics comes to life.

With real time data feeding into remarketing, ad content optimization, and real time bidding systems, advertisers are closer than ever to finding the right customer with the right ad at the right time. As these real time systems converge, there’s huge potential to integrate analytics to pull in deeper and richer information about user intent.

What does this mean to publishers? It will mean advertisers will be able to buy more judiciously, show the right ads to the right visitors, and your CPMs will probably go up. Our goal is to make Internet advertising as effective as TV advertising. There’s no logical reason this should not be the case.

Online advertising has never been able to prove itself, except in isolated cases, until recently. By isolated cases, I mean targeted sites that know their customers and sell directly. Leo laPorte, founder of TWIT.tv, an online podcast network, says his shows have become costly for advertisers ($85) because they’ve been demonstrated to move product. This, of course, is what advertisers really want. Performance.

So don’t fear measurement. Embrace it, and begin to tune your content accordingly. At ZEDO, we are re-doing our own site, and we are also doing extensive research and development into how ads can be made most visible. Our partnership with AdXPose, now Comscore, has already paid big dividends for us; preliminary results on our InView Slider ad show that it is actually seen 99% of the time it is served.

We have more research to do over longer periods of time before we can make too much noise about this, but it looks very promising for both publishers and advertisers.

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Internet Ads Can (and Will) be As Effective as TV

Sometimes it is lonely to be the CEO of the biggest independent advertising technology partner for publishers. The long view: my belief in standing behind the high quality publishers to make Internet advertising work at least as well as the best TV advertising – is a position not often shared. Yet I believe that we can make Internet advertising work brilliantly for high quality product launches and brand building. We won’t be stuck with text based CPC ads. We will show that the best sites can run fantastic graphical and video ads that sell great products.

I’ve been saying for months that the distinction between above and below the fold should go away, and I finally have company for my perspective. Good company: Comscore, Inc.

A week ago I attended an event in New York City at which Comscore unveiled its new Validated GRP(TM) tool that rates the effectiveness of digital ads. Validated GRP takes the rating standards advertisers apply to TV advertising (Gross Rating Points) and establishes a similar metric that will apply to digital advertising. For advertisers, this is a metric to judge online campaign effectiveness–to make an apples to apples comparison between the effectiveness of TV and the effectiveness of online display and video ads.

In the development of its Validated GRP tool, Comscore conducted a  major study on the quality of campaign delivery  that allowed it to investigate discrepancies between expectations and reality when it comes to ad delivery. The full study, the results of which will be released in March, included twelve major brands with household names like Ford, Sprint, Kimberly Clark, and Kellogg’s.

To conduct the study, Comscore used the AdXPose technology it acquired earlier last year. The AdXPose team tipped us off in advance because we were already partnered with them. We got a sneak preview of the study’s highlights, which we are now free to share here.

In December 2011, Comscore measured 2,975 placements on 380,898 site domains — totaling over 1.7 million impressions, all delivered in iframes.

The conclusion? Something we, as an ad server and a advertising technology partner for publishers, have already observed: many ads are served, but not seen. That’s because web pages are no longer mostly short pages with static user experiences; they’re long pages with dynamic usage. Many use the increasingly popular “infinite scroll”. By the time an ad at the top of the page is served, the reader may have already scrolled by. Yet many ads further down may be very visible to the user. In Comscore’s own words:

“It’s not just an ‘above the fold versus below the fold’ issue. Sometimes people scroll down quickly to get to the content they want, and miss home page ads. In those cases, the action might be below the fold. Compelling ads can work in both places – but only if they’re visible.” Comscore found that 24% of ads above the fold were not visible.

While this is not great news for the advertisers who paid for those campaigns, It is great to see Comscore measure this for advertisers. And it’s why we developed the InView slider formats. Web pages, like the Huffington Post and Daily Mail are getting longer. And they are increasingly optimized for tablets where users are quick to scroll and therefore quick to skip past the top of the page to get to the content they want to read.

Comscore’s findings become very important, especially as online advertising moves from simple banner display ads to on-page video. And I believe it will move to great video ads for cars, cosmetics and movies etc right on the page. Right now, we’re selling the InView Slider ad unit with great confidence that it works for advertisers wherever you place it. It only appears if the reader is going to see it. The InView slider gives publishers a way to boost revenue, and gives advertisers a great way to guarantee to catch scrolling readers.

We’re also launching an in page video ad that will appear when the viewer is guaranteed to see it.

The InView slider has been quickly adopted by publishers since the summer because all the revenue for the publisher is additional and yet there’s no additional work involved.

We look forward to Comscore publicly presenting the full results of its study in March, and of course we are proud to be their partner in making advertising on the web as good as the best advertising on national TV.

Publishers: Now You Can Monetize Below the Fold

No advertiser wants to pay for an ad that isn’t seen. In fact, until recently, advertisers who bought both directly and through through exchanges were very focused on ads that “performed” — ads that caused the reader to respond. Google is built on the Pay-per-Click model: the advertiser doesn’t pay unless the consumer clicks on the ad. Most traditional display advertising, however, wasn’t like that.

And the PPC model isn’t appropriate for every brand in every circumstance; more sophisticated advertisers now understand the utility of online advertising for “brand lift,” or “social engagement,” or just sheer visibility. While the call to action may not involve a direct activity on the site where the ad is shown —  “order now” vs. “visit your Ford dealer to see our 2012 models,”– most advertisers now agree that branding itself is a worthwhile use of online advertising dollars.

This type of advertising is judged by its cost per thousand impressions, known as CPMs. (Wonder where the M comes from? It stands for Mille, which is thousand in French.)

If you are a publisher, you know you only have a certain amount of screen real estate “above the fold,” — at the top of your site. Below the fold, where users must scroll, is traditionally viewed as inferior placement.

But those areas can now be monetized through CPM ads– especially if the ads are striking. Readers do come to read stories below the fold on most newspaper and magazine sites (if you want some good examples, Take a look at Huffington Post, which offers almost limitless scrolling, but has ads only on the top right sid of the home page,  and the Daily Mail, where Verizon runs ads both above and below the fold.) Verizon will be paying less for the ad below the fold, but that ad will  nevertheless be seen, because readers do scroll down. Huffington Post has lost an opportunity here; and now it’s possible to prove that to an advertiser.

There are now several services that help advertisers verify that below-the-fold ads are not misspent money and make publishers more aggressive about offering inventory below the fold, after educating advertisers about how often those ads get viewed.

DoubleVerify provides online advertising verification. The company seeks to increase online advertising accountability and transparency by providing agencies, marketers, publishers and ad networks with real-time audit and verification of online advertising transactions, while Adxpose focuses on both “ad verification” and “ad safety.” It tells advertisers if anyone actually saw their ad online (was the ad above the fold or below the fold on any given webpage and how many people actually scrolled down to look at it?), and in what context the ads were shown. For instance, most major brand advertisers don’t want their ads shown next to porn or other content not deemed to be “brand-safe.” With Adxpose, and other available tools, an advertiser knows.

It will take a while for new, “in-view guaranteed”, below-the-fold advertising to become accepted, but in the mean time it will give the most adventurous advertisers an edge, and because of superior analytics, there’s not much actual risk.

We’ve been experimenting with better below-the-fold formats, and Zedo has some pretty original and compelling formats we’d be happy to show you if you are interested.

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