ADOTAS – Is it possible to verify a placement before the impression is even bought? Well, no, but AdSafe Media is pushing the conventional boundaries of ad verification to veer into predictive analytics with its new Engagement Quality Ratings. Designed for all types of media-buying including RTB, the ratings inform advertisers pre-bid the likeliness of their ads reaching the target audience as well as estimated user engagement and amount of view time.
We hooked up with AdSafe CEO Scott Knoll — who joined the company back in May from the recently acquired Datran Media; Knoll founded and served as president of Datran’s audience targeting and measurement platform Aperture — to get more details on how Engagement Quality Ratings work and where the ad verification sector is headed following a few acquisitions.
ADOTAS: How can AdSafe Engagement Quality Ratings calculate the probability of an ad being seen before an advertiser bids through an RTB platform?
KNOLL: We see billions of ad impressions a day and our reach basically covers the entire ad-supported Internet. Our technology enables us to understand whether or not ad placements, on which pages, regularly get viewed and which don’t. We don’t look at whether the ad is above or below the fold, but whether or not it is actually viewed by a user and for how long, which we believe is much more relevant in calculating attribution or ROI.
Over time, distinct patterns emerge and we are uniquely positioned in the ecosystem to offer this information to both buyers and sellers. A solution like this has never existed before on a pre-bid basis and we are excited to be the first to make it available.
What factors does the service take into equation? Can you give an example of how these factors are weighted? How do load times factor into the probability of an ad being seen? How can AdSafe’s technology determine this?
Our technology captures core metrics around the life of an ad. Was the ad visible when it loaded? If not, did it become visible at any point and for how many seconds? Again, we believe that these types of metrics are more relevant than just “above the fold” as frequently these “ATF” ads are never seen due to page load times, user behavior, pop-ups or other distracting factors.
Further, from these core metrics, AdSafe discovered that there are sometimes dramatic differences in user visibility between various sites and media channels, and even on the different pages within those sites.
Addressing these insights, we have a proprietary and patent pending methodology for determining the Engagement Quality Rating of a page that takes into account factors not only associated with ad visibility and time on page, but also things like ad clutter and color contrast.
Do you consider the idea of “the fold” a myth?
I’m not sure I would say it’s a myth, but it’s not a good basis for measurement or determining success, because the “fold” is subjective to the device type, browser and screen size of each unique user. Thus any guarantee of “above the fold” is rather meaningless. Furthermore even if the ad is “above the fold” it might never have been seen because the context at the bottom of the page was more engaging to the user, in which case what is the relevance of it being above the fold.
What kind of display players (e.g., agencies, DSPs) are you marketing this product toward? Are you planning a complementary product for the supply side?
Our goal is to make this solution available to both buyers and sellers as both benefit from this valuable information. Buyers can better understand which inventory will likely perform and optimize accordingly and sellers of engaging content will start to better monetize inventory with or without the presence of third-party cookies. The information is delivered via our API which is already integrated with a collection of DSPs, SSPs and exchanges and leveraged by agencies and publishers.
We’re not lonely, but we believe that these transactions further validate not only the need for verification services today, but also the future opportunity that exists in this space in terms of the data we are in a position to provide.
Have you considered giving up your bachelor status — that is, getting married to a larger company?
We are currently enjoying our single status and are having a lot of fun and success in the process. The whole AdSafe team strongly believes that what we’re building will profoundly impact how ads are bought and sold going forward. We also feel that we have the necessary resources to make it happen — and as the fastest growing player in the space, are beating our competitors daily without the need of a large organization. In short, our focus is on building a valuable enterprise and if that in turn makes us the “belle of the ball” then we will figure out what’s best for our shareholders at that time.
Do you think ad verification can still be a standalone service? How has the role of “verification services” expanded?
We see ad verification as just the starting point. We’re widely recognized as having the industry’s best and most sophisticated technology for helping brands understand where not to advertise — and we’re in the process of leveraging this same infrastructure and machine learning to inform them where they should be advertising.
Our Engagement Quality Ratings are the first step in this direction. And we believe they’re a significant step. There are many factors involved in an ad’s success online and we have a unique ability to deliver insights related to these factors to both buyers and sellers.
What have been the most significant changes to AdSafe’s business over the last year?
The market has become more sophisticated. Clients are asking for preventative ad safety solutions rather than just a spreadsheet of links listing where their ads ran.
This has had a very positive effect on AdSafe’s business. We’ve consistently stayed in front the industry’s needs for ad verification and brand protection technology – in fact our products have propelled the market forward. Consequently we’ve grown fivefold in 2011 alone.
Moving towards 2012, with our new user engagement related data, and our integration across both the buy and sell-sides of the RTB landscape, we’re uniquely positioned for continued learning, innovation and growth.