New Advertising Formats Rescue Publishers

Nobody wants the publishing industry to go away, but current conditions sure make it difficult for it to survive. It used to be that advertisers had to come to publishers to reach potential customers. Now, however, all kinds of tech companies sell customer data, and the publisher’s audience appears to have become less critical to the targeting process. Thus, there has been an almost constant erosion of the power of the publisher to impact ad buys, even as his reach increases. The New York Times has 31 million online subscribers, a number unheard of in the print era. But to an advertiser, that could be nothing compared to a Google or a Facebook, who reach billions.

To survive in the programmatic environment, publishers have had to drop their CPMs. from double to single digits. The survivors have already made the shift, and the new startups are unburdened by legacy cost structures (you may remember printing presses).

Yet there are still ways for legacy publishers to survive the commoditization of  what appears to be an infinite supply of  inventory.

One way is through video ads.  There is a relatively small supply of pre-roll to run against video content, and it is so limited that advertisers who want to run on video sites can’t get the reach they need without resorting to other forms of publication to get enough scale. On the other hand, video is increasingly popular with consumers, who watch it on mobile devices in ever-increasing numbers.

Advertisers who want to run video to reach large audiences must find other sites.

On these sites, smart publishers can either create content specific to advertisers , which we think of as content marketing, or   allow advertisers to develop their own content to fit the existing content of the publisher, which  is called native advertising. With either native advertising or content marketing, the simplest thing for an advertiser is to be able to repurpose existing  TV ad content into a standard IAB space.

However, there’s still no guarantee that the ad will be seen, as the statistics say that 50% of video ads go unwatched.

We have the answer to this problem with ZINC’s InArticle video format, which runs on your site in a standard IAB unit, but gets 25% higher CTRs than a typical video ad because it can expand to full screen and leaves a 1×1 reminder at the bottom of the page.

Our InArticle format,  sold directly or programmatically, allows advertisers to reach new audiences across new channels at scale. Our publisher partners have been very satisfied with the high CPMS this format is able to command, and advertisers are thrilled with our viewability metrics. We’ve got first rate video ad viewability partners who help our publisher partners provide the metrics they need to sell successfully.



What Do Publishers Think About Viewability?

Welcome to the moving target that is viewability. Admonsters has done a survey of fifty ad operations departments at major publishers to find out how publishers felt about the lifting of the MRC stay. Agencies and  advertisers are now empowered to buy on viewability. This will not be an easy shift, as there are still inconsistencies in how viewability is measured. There are about a dozen certified  testing companies, from Comscore and Nielsen to startups, and they all measure with slightly different methodologies even if they are looking for the same standard.

Survey respondents and recent event attendees have told Admonsters that “a  publisher’s viewability isn’t a single number but varies by ad position and page type and then by how the user interacts with the page. This creates an extra level of complexity with inventory management and forecasting— critical functions that are already difficult for publishers to manage.”

Three of the major findings from the research are:

  1.  Viewability won’t be taking most publishers by surprise as they have been actively trying to understand the impact by testing multiple vendors and taking steps to improve viewability. 74% of publishers have completed testing for viewability on their sites. Only 15% hadn’t even begun to test, and most of these cited cost as the reason.
  2. While publishers see the lift as premature because results vary too much and the tech seems immature, the advisory’s removal hasn’t changed much since buyers were already demanding viewability. 59% of publishers said the market wasn’t ready for buying on viewability — by which they meant THEY weren’t ready. Some publishers who did test had to make changes in their site designs to make ads more viewable.
  3. Issues around discrepancies in the results provided by viewabilty solutions are heightened by the fact pubs and buyers differ on which solutions they use.

One survey respondent said, “typically, it’s centered around type of content and ad placement. Home pages tend to get morescrolling, so an ad at the top of the page is less viewable. Articles tend to get a slower scroll, so ad placement is a little less important.” Of the 46% of respondents who had already taken steps to improve viewability, 75% had changed the position of ads. 69% had instituted ad call loading only on in-view, and 38% had removed ads. These are all steps in the right direction.

10% of the respondents said they were selling on viewable impressions, 21% are considering it, and 67% said it was too early to know. For our publishers it shouldn’t be too early, because we’ve been selling viewable impressions for two years, ever since comScore tested our Inview Slider and certified it 99% viewable.

While the AdMonsters survey reflects an industry in transition, there has been so much time to prepare for buying and selling on viewability that we expect it to become standard in the market this year.

Browsers Can Determine Whether Viewability is Measurable

We’ve been yakking about viewability in display ads for more than two years, and now it’s finally going to happen. When we first began to develop our high impact formats, we tested them with comScore, where they were judged 99% viewable. But the IAB’s Metrics That Matter initiative has upped the ante, and the Media Rating Council has given us a choice of eleven vendors who can help advertisers make more savvy buys.  But now we hear that some media buyers are going to specify 100% viewability, so we’re going back to the drawing board to see how best to get that last 1%. It may not be possible right now, but we’ll still try.

Since we’re now highly focused on both mobile and video, we decided to run some tests of our newer formats with Moat, one of the  companies certified by the Media Rating Council, to  see how well our mobile and video ads perform. (We’ll let you know.) In doing research on the vendors certified to test viewability, we found there are some differences in what and how they measure.

For example, some of the certified companies have no independent capability to measure viewability within cross domain iFrames, but simply offer publishers iFrame Bridge technology. Others leverage “Frame Buster” code, which allows for measurement within iFrames. And still others can measure viewability for some browsers, but not  in Webkit browsers. That means using their viewability technology doesn’t allow you to measure impressions in  Safari, Opera, and perhaps also Chrome.

When you combine the different browsers with the added complexities of video and mobile rather than simple  static display ads, you quickly realize that metrics will have to improve before viewability can truly be accurately measured across a multi-screen campaign.

What does this mean for advertisers? We think for now it means that 100% viewable is too much to expect for a campaign that may be running on many different browsers. Media planners are going to have to learn more about the subtleties of viewability before they begin buying on it, and they’re going to have to learn what is possible and what is pie in the sky for now.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all aim for making more ads viewable; it’s just that we should know where the line is between possible and impossible.


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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.



Good Advertising Should Seem Like Content

“Advertising is at its best when it brings you back to a place and time – remember how you felt the first time you saw the grandmother from Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” or Coke’s “Mean Joe Green”.  Unfortunately, too often we treat advertising like a mass production line: commoditizing it and diluting it to the point that it no longer matters and becomes white noise.”

This quote from Larry Allen in Business Insider hits the nail right on the head for me. For a long time, I’ve thought digital advertising can be as impactful as TV advertising. But right now, it’s sold incorrectly and executed without true creativity, almost as if creative were an afterthought. The advertising of my youth, known for its cleverness and excitement, has faded into the vanilla digital banner, or the slow-loading flash ad.

Of course these kinds of ads don’t work. Ads, Allen says, should be like music: pleasant to listen to and evocative of emotions. Brands are dissatisfied with the current data-driven state of digital advertising,, because they want engagement. Publishers are losing revenue. How do we fix that? With new formats that make advertising compelling again, with effectiveness that can truly be measured.

According to DoubleVerify, which monitors brand exposure, most impressions are not viewable.

— Only 54 percent of impressions matched IAB viewability parameters,

which state that an ad must be at least 50 percent viewable on the

screen for at least one second to be considered “viewable”.

— For a major advertiser, the highest brand exposure duration for a

campaign was 95 seconds while for another advertiser it was only 18


— For duration of more than one second, the highest performing media

seller had a viewability rate of 83 percent while the lowest was 28


— The top performing media sellers had average viewability of 75 percent

while the low performing had average viewability of 40 percent.

— For all media sellers, the average ad viewability rates declined with

time as follows:

— One second or more: 54 percent

— Three seconds or more: 43 percent

— Five seconds or more: 36 percent

— 10 seconds or more: 27 percent

— 30 seconds or more: 12 percent

Media sellers using our high impact formats can demonstrate 99% viewable impressions.

How do we fix this? We need new and better technology for publishers. ZEDO has this technology and it has been adopted by hundreds of sites across the US. Publishers using our high impact formats get 99% viewable impressions. And  brand advertisers notice that and call our publishers. One agency has put out an RFP strictly for viewable impressions..

And with these the new highly viewable ZEDO formats that users actually see, especially ones that include video, creative directors can finally take their great TV ads and show them to hundreds of millions of target consumers on the web. Bring back the good old days of “Mad Men,” when fun creative that everyone viewed made the day.

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