A few years ago, when most people in the industry heard the term “ad verification” they immediately thought about the textbook example of a problem being solved: ads showing up next to adult content. There was a prevalent fear-based sale that shook up the marketplace and ended up focusing companies on solving for inappropriate content. This emphasis was fine, but there was an accompanying friction created between traditionally symbiotic organisms – agencies, publishers and networks – which caused and still causes some real pain and frustration.
Moreover, lost in the shuffle was the fact that inappropriate content is often the smallest fraction of a percentage of the main issue – which has been and remains transparency, as it relates to overall ad effectiveness.
I would submit that the rapid rise of real-time bidding, trading desks, and audience buying would have been greatly hindered if verification companies were not available to help advertisers safely find inventory beyond the premium direct publisher marketplace. Obviously, RTB is a huge opportunity for transparent data providers including verification and optimization solutions.
As dollars move rapidly into supply-side platforms like AdMeld and demand-side platforms like Invite and MediaMath the predictability of safety and value versus reactive manual optimization against those measures will become table stakes. Home-baked algorithms evaluating indices against everything from ad clutter to the likelihood of a user to engage a brand or click an ad will drive dynamic bid values in real time.
I think that with the rise of companies in this industry such as AdXpose – and the entry of some traditional measurement companies into the space – there is an evolving focus on valuing media efficiently versus simply providing insurance policies to cautious advertisers and chastised networks.
We see clients demanding brand safety as a price of admission for most buys, but they are definitely more interested longer term in improving ROI. A year ago, most clients thought we were an ad verification company that offered analytics, they now see us as an analytics company that also offers verification.
In the future, I think we’ll see verification providers position themselves as broader solutions. Some are evolving into compliance auditors, others into semantic tools.
Thanks in large part to the emergence of ad verification, the days of the wild-west exchange and the rogue network are for the most part past us. Aside from a few notable exceptions, networks and platforms have, whether grudgingly or proactively, embraced the fact that transparency, at least in terms of content and performance, is the order of the day.
That stated, there is still a huge discrepancy between impression purchased, for example, and impressions delivered in an actual viewable area of the browser. And on the flip side, publishers are creating ad engagement rates of more than 5 percent in some cases (which drive enormous brand value and downstream conversion lift) but are only credited for the 0.1 percent click rates when it comes time for the buyer to optimize. Value is attributed inefficiently, and the metrics are to blame.
So, while brand safety is still the base of the pyramid, we think ad verification really means media valuation. We think marketers should focus on what we call the six pillars of ad effectiveness; Who (audience), What (content and context), When (daypart), Where (placement, view-ability, and geography), How (engagement and creative performance), and Why (conversion and attribution).
This allows marketers to allocate their dollars against the audiences, content and placements that truly create brand and response value – which creates a virtuous cycle of rising CPM’s for the best data and content providers and aggregators, and grows the pie for the industry overall.
The fact of the matter is, not many entities sit outside of the value chain that impact delivery of these pillars, or are able to reliably, agnostically and transparently collect, structure, and make actionable this advertising event data. Companies that successfully combine ad verification and optimization fill that need.
Since ownership of the ad serving and measurement data resides in many cases with the agency or publisher/platform/network, the advertiser or agency can face challenges simply verifying the validity of their delivery and performance data. The most thorough and comprehensive verification analytics solutions – those that monitor and collect event data around every impression in a campaign – provide independent performance evaluation, ensuring that the buyer owns first-party data around each campaign.
When it comes to verification, most agree it’s good for the industry, it’s growing, and it’s here to stay. Our 2010 survey of 140+ agencies and networks bears this out. What’s next for the ad verification industry is definitely less about risk mitigation and more about increased ROI and dynamic media optimization.
Kirby Winfield is CEO of AdXpose.