Programmatic needs more transparency, and publishers need to think viewability argues panel

stephen dolan


Publishers need to start thinking about the new viewability metric when designing their websites while programmatic traders need to be more transparent or risk endangering the industry, an industry forum was told last night.

Speaking on a panel looking at ad fraud at last night AdTech Meetup Sydney Stephen Dolan, the APAC managing director for programmatic ad analytics provider Integral, said ad fraud, websites serving advertising impressions which have no chance of being seen by a human being, was “easy money” for criminals, but sad the industry was taking steps to address it.

The issue of ad viewability, a recently introduced set of criteria which determines if an ad was served actually served in a viewable way to a person,  was also discussed, with Dolan bemoaning a lack of action from publishers to take it into consideration in their web design.

He said: “Publishers need to start thinking about how they use the viewability metric and to figure out how they should be designing their pages. I had this long conversation with publishers who say viewability sucks, and it’s because they put all this content below your video that’s quite interesting and while the ad’s playing it gives people something to do.

“If you look at an average page the ads are shoved around the outside of the content. If we want to go back to being able to pay journalists and produce content that’s sustainable over a long period of time the advertising, and I’m not talking about native advertising but the way ads appear on the page, has to be better.”

Sam Smith the managing director of TubeMogul said while statistics of around only 40 per cent of ads actually conforming to the metric were being recorded by platforms, it did not take into account human behaviour.

“Even if the impression is a valuable impression but the consumer has scrolled to the bottom of the page or to another tab we’re just measuring it – it’s stuff you’re measuring with digital you can’t on TV,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s a bad impression, it’s a metric you’re able to look at and make a decision on.

“You can start to look at if its particularly bad with a particular publisher you can make your own judgement call as to whether the content on that site isn’t particularly good. We’re seeing a lot of the premium publishers actually get quite good viewability scores, people are staying on their page to see the content behind it. Others, not so much.

“When you look at viewability rates in this market around 40 per cent the immediate reaction form a client is that’s a really bad mark, but when you go in depth and look at what’s going on you understand a lot of it’s human behaviour, and you can’t prevent anything to do with that. ”

Talking about his time working for Facebook in Asia Dolan said they saw “90 per cent of the our dollars taken up by arbitrage in Indonesia, it was insane”.

He added: “It’s a dumb type of fraud, but the concepts are the same. It’s someone turning up to  a buyer saying I’m going to sell you this, and they’re privy to a bunch of metrics  and ultimately the advertiser’s being defrauded and the advertiser’s being defrauded, and that was literally hundreds of millions of dollars, that was significant.”

Smith said the issue of arbitrage, over-charging clients for inventory, was something the industry needed to address. He added: “We as an industry really have an opportunity right now to be way more transparent and technology now allows you to provide to clients how their money’s being spent and how it’s performing.

“If you’re not doing that today you need to start doing it. there are still businesses today that operate in a black box type environment, and there are businesses that still won’t provide full transparency on what they’ve bought something for for a client. I think just generally we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable to what we’re doing. This is a really incredible market in Australia, there’s a ton of innovation and we want to continue to do that if there are people who are going to continue to trade in a non-transparent manner then you’re only going to damage us all going forward.”

Fellow panelist Mitchell Waters, Australia managing director of Adap,tv, said the fact the industry was holding a forum to air views around the issue was a positive start, adding the recently formed IAB Brand Safety Council had already taken steps to start tackling the problem of ad fraud.

Alex Hayes



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