Opinion

Making sense of measurement

On Friday, Mumbrella reported on a conference panel curated by the Interactive Advertising Bureau discussing advertising fraud. Panellist Michelle Katz cited an 80% rate according to an overseas study - putting it at odds with a 4% number stated by an IAB report into what it labels as "invalid traffic" launched at the event.

In this guest post, IAB research director Gai Le Roy argues that it is misleading to compare the two.

It’s fair to say that as an industry we probably don’t do ourselves any favours when it comes to measurement – it is complex and there are many points of view. In fact that’s why we scheduled the IAB Refresh Panel at the Programmatic Summit last week with senior panellists across the four key industry areas: marketers, agencies, tech companies and publishers. It’s all part of the new IAB mission to simplify and inspire.

The goal for the panel was to bring together the differing views and perspectives to help drive dialogue around the digital value chain around hygiene topics like viewability, ad blocking and IVT (Invalid Traffic). They’re tough subjects to address predominantly because to achieve simplicity of measurement in areas such as ad fraud and IVT requires rigour. It was a great discussion but it did lead to a misleading Mumbrella headline last Friday.

One of the data points referenced by the story was based on a very small UK study from two years ago looking at ad clicks. It was then compared to the newly released IAB Invalid Traffic (IVT) Benchmarks which aggregated three months of Australian data from three independent and key MRC accredited vendors measuring inventory quality. Aside from the questionable rigour of the UK study that was referenced – the story was actually looking at two totally different data sets.

Perhaps the naming of the Invalid Traffic (IVT) Benchmarks doesn’t help – across the entire advertising industry we use terms that may not be understood by all. Invalid traffic is the terminology used by the U.S. Media Ratings Council (MRC) which has set standards on this issue – just think of it as ads being served to non-humans or in places that were not the intended environment. The definition of IVT is broader than just ad fraud but fraud is a significant component of sophisticated invalid traffic.

Regardless of its clunky name, the IVT Benchmarking Data we released last week is solid – it aggregated the data from Comscore, Integral Ad Science and Moat for three months in late 2016 across all Australian ad inventory that was monitored using these vendors. Bringing these three competitors together to combine their data for the benefit of the industry is no small undertaking and the co-operation of these three suppliers is to be commended.  In addition, we engaged PwC to collate and review the data to provide an extra layer of assurance. And before anyone jumps ahead, I can assure you that it wasn’t the same team running the IVT report as the team that was managing the Oscars.

Chris Nolan, Libby Minogue, Michelle Katz and Ricky Mulla at the Programatic Summit last week discussing ad fraud

The IVT Benchmark data shows that of all the ad impressions assessed using these vendors 3.7% of desktop and 3.8% of mobile inventory was classified as invalid traffic. We have started to collect data for video inventory and we will release this to market with our next wave of benchmarks. Naturally any fraudulent activity is not a positive thing but these validated numbers are definitely lower than some of the anecdotal numbers flying around.

Ad fraud is a reality for our industry but there are ways we can currently minimise risk for clients and start addressing some of the underlying economics driving this fraudulent activity.  We have to – because the consumers we are targeting are increasing their time on digital channels – people aged 35 and under spend more media time on digital than any other channel.  So as an industry where paid media is an important part of the marketing mix, we need to embrace transparency and independent third-party measurement to ensure we continue to evolve our solutions to match the changing market dynamics.

To help the industry make more sense of measurement, IAB Australia will continue to invest significant time and expertise to provide robust, independent research and market level data on a range of industry matters. The IVT Benchmarks follow on from the first wave of industry benchmarks for viewability and ad blocking, both of which were released late last year. We will continue to measure and track trends, and more importantly give advice to marketers on how they can minimise risk and optimise efficiency for their spend.

But everyone in our industry has a role to play when it comes to managing the digital value chain.  Chasing the lowest CPM without rigour around quality is destined to end in tears – just as it would on any other channel.

The second wave of the IAB viewability, ad blocking and invalid traffic benchmarks will be released later in the year.  We’ll continue to work with the smartest data experts to ensure the rigour of the data so that everyone in industry has access to transparent and accurate data that will continue to build trust in the digital value chain.

We are very open to help all in the industry understand the methodologies and approaches for measuring the digital value chain.   We encourage everyone to get involved and build their understanding.  Our doors are open – please come and chat.

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