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We at A3 Media never stop looking for better ways to place and monitor media for our clients. We make it part of our daily routine because when you find a truly innovative partner with real accountability, the benefits for our clients can be the difference between failure and success, theirs and ours. And, while we haven’t heard them all we’ve heard hundreds of pitches claiming they have, “the most advanced system on the market for your needs.” In reality, newer and more advanced isn’t always better.

United States advertisers are projected to spend more than 289 billion dollars in 2022. Roughly 54% of those ad dollars will be allocated to digital advertising. More than 11 billion of all the digital dollars is projected to be wasted due to the widespread fraud in the digital space. This is out-and-out fraud, money spent that will never actually reach a single human. But it doesn’t stop there.

Digital media has always had its own standards. A “try to keep up with tech, as you go model,” in my opinion. There are many facets to placing a successful digital buy: the budget, the creative styles available, the creative quality, available inventory, and the list goes on. One facet – acceptable viewability standards – is the most baffling to me.

Nearly seven years ago, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) created a standard definition of ad viewability – at least 50% of an ad must be in view for a minimum of one second for display ads and two seconds for video ads.

Compounding the IAB/MRC guidelines is the acceptable industry standard of 70% viewability! Seven of every 10 ads placed need to be at least 50% in view for ONE second, or TWO seconds for digital video. How much of an ad’s message can be gleamed by reading 50% of a digital ad in one second or watching 50% of a digital video for two seconds? Is producing an entire video that can deliver the brand’s message in two seconds possible? Does the agency ever explain this to their clients?

Does 70% viewability mean that a campaign can’t be successful? No! Does 100% viewability guarantee a campaign’s success? No, but it certainly increases your odds by 30%! However, what possible chance of success can be derived from the 30% of your digital ad dollars never being seen? That’s really easy – NONE! Yet publishers and agencies alike always boast about measuring their success against the industry standard. We often hear from vendors that they will “try” to optimize to 70% viewability. Our response is a resounding, “thanks but no thanks.”

If this is the model used for your media buying, the only potential loser is you – the client. Your agency is billing on a CPM (cost per thousand) impressions ordered, viewable or not. The DSP (demand side platform) your agency uses to place your buys charges on a CPM model – they get paid for every impression. The publishers and suppliers, SSP (supply side platforms) get paid for every impression they sell, viewable or not.

You can stay the course and hope your message reaches your potential consumers or, if this doesn’t sound like the most efficient use of your advertising dollars consider a few options:

  • Add 30% to your media budget to compensate for the nonviewable impressions and hope the additional spend gets the results you need.
  • Lower your bid rate by 30% so that you can increase your number of impressions. Although, this greatly reduces your chances of running and finding quality placements.
  • Ask your agency to look in to vCPM rates. Yes, the digital supply chain has gone so far as to offer a vCPM rate (viewable cost per thousand). The question that comes to mind first is where is the nvCPM rate, non-viewable cost per thousand?

Perhaps it may make more sense to work with an agency that refuses to jump on the bandwagon and work with superior providers. Choices do exist, non-skippable audio and video and above the fold (ATF), static digital ads, verified in demo, and geotargeted placements offer you a much higher chance of success than the current standards.

If your agency and publishers aren’t willing to guarantee nearly 100% vCPM, then ask them if it’s alright for you to deduct 30% of their costs and commissions. After all, fair is fair!