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Nielsen Talk: Digital, the Newish Frontier, with Integral Ad Science’s David Hahn
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Nielsen Talk: Digital, the Newish Frontier, with Integral Ad Science’s David Hahn

Digital advertising is in some ways still a new(ish) frontier. As an industry, we have had roughly two decades in the space. Yet, we’re reaching a new era in digital advertising. Though we understand the shortcomings of digital better than ever—fraud, fragmentation—new measurement has emerged to confront many of these issues. We also have greater insight into the opportunities.

In the Nielsen Talk series, we spotlight the perspective of esteemed contributors to the media industry who have a fresh perspective on how to navigate today’s ever-evolving media world. To learn more about one of today’s biggest trends in digital advertising—viewability—we spoke with Integral Ad Science’s David Hahn.

David leads product management at Integral, overseeing product vision and roadmap. David joined Integral in 2009 and was fundamental in building out the core of Integral’s product line today. David brings more than 15 years of executive product management, marketing and strategy experience, having held product strategy and management roles at companies including Safenet, Message Labs and Mail.com.

Q: This is a new era in digital advertising, with a rise in digital media consumption, particularly mobile and video. What do you see as the most exciting trend in digital advertising?

Programmatic technology has ushered in a much more efficient way of buying and selling digital media, addressing brands’ need to reach users at scale. The adoption of programmatic buying is rising with promising forecasts, and, in fact, some brands are moving the majority of their media to this channel. Reportedly, American Express will be buying 100% of their online media that way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others follow suit. With these efficiencies and increased confidence in digital media, we’re already seeing advertising extend beyond standard desktop display into mobile and video. As a result, we can expect higher standards around media quality, leading to an increase in advertising effectiveness and the adoption of programmatic buying across all channels.

Q: Despite the upswing in digital advertising, uncertainty over return on investment (ROI) remains—and fraud has become a hot topic of late. What can the industry do to address the concerns?

Digital fraud makes it harder for advertisers to evaluate their campaigns and understand true ROI. The industry has already taken positive strides since ad fraud became widely publicized in early 2013. The establishment of the Traffic of Good Intent task force at the IAB is one of the measures taken by our industry to create awareness and drive standards to combat fraud. Since then, we have seen greater adoption of fraud detection and prevention technologies from both the buy and sell side to ensure ads are shown to humans. This enthusiastic response is encouraging but we must continue to develop tools to proactively catch fraudsters as they come up with new ways to game the system. Furthermore, all players in the industry should be utilizing these cutting-edge tools, particularly solutions that can address ad fraud in real time.

Q: Many viewability solutions focus on providing post-campaign reporting to make sure a campaign reached its objectives. Isn’t it too late at that point? Any advice for improving campaign viewability performance pre- or in-flight?

It’s important to understand that viewability depends on the action taken by the user after the ad was served. Instead, we focus on maximizing the opportunity and chance for an ad to be seen by working closely with our clients to monitor campaign reporting in-flight and optimize to increase viewability based on those results.

In programmatic buying, viewability data by audience is available to increase the chances of serving an in-view ad. At Integral, our machine learning collects and analyzes data for billions of ad placements, and advertisers who utilize our data have achieved success in bidding on ads that have a high probability of being in view and thus significantly increasing their overall campaign viewability.

Q: The Media Rating Council (MRC) recently gave the green light to transact on viewable video impressions. What impact have you seen from this change?

Since lifting the advisory, we have seen a flurry of activity from buyers and sellers trying to figure out exactly what it means for their business. Now that viewability may affect media cost, buyers and sellers are more interested than ever in understanding the technology behind the measurement. Lifting the advisory and enabling the industry to transact on viewable impressions is a step in the right direction for our industry, benefitting everyone in the long term. One thing to point out is that not all MRC-accredited vendors have the same technological capabilities. The MRC issued a detailed list of vendors and its methodologies; it’s up to the buyers and sellers of digital media to educate themselves on the differences in technology to make the right choice.

Q: Where does viewability go from here?

While the industry is constantly developing more advanced technology to measure and report on viewability, we’ve reached a good place where we can say that we’re able to measure over 90% of ads in display, and we’ve made a lot of progress in video and mobile as well. When it comes to how this data is used to make smarter business decisions based on viewability, there is still has a long way to go.

When thinking of the value of an ad, viewability is a good baseline—an ad that is not in-view has no chance of converting the user. However, there are other factors to consider:

  • Assessing share of view: Taking viewability into consideration alongside page clutter is key to understanding if an ad is competing with another advertiser’s ads on the page for the user’s attention.
  • Viewability as a gateway to ad engagement: Establishing viewability is the first step in understanding user engagement. Now that there’s a green light for transacting on viewability, we can begin to look at such factors as ad creative in relation to page content and user navigation/browsing behavior post ad view.
  • Adoption of new ad formats optimizing for length of viewability:­ We will see new ad formats, such as ads that follow the user on the page.
  • Dynamic pricing: Viewability will be a factor in pricing but will vary depending on the value to the specific advertiser.

Earlier this year, Nielsen and Integral Ad Science announced that Integral will power viewability measurement within Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings in markets around the globe. Integral launched video viewability as well as in-app and mobile web ad verification and viewability in February, while Nielsen launched mobile measurement in its Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings in July.