When It Comes to Premium, Publishers are Leaving Revenue and Performance to Chance

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While Advertising optimization is typically the responsibility of ad operations, it is the underpinning of publishers’ entire businesses. Publishers that deliver to the goals of the advertiser maximize revenue from the campaign and instill loyalty, potentially leading to the investment of more media spend. And yet, many of these same publishers are allowing campaigns to continue untouched once they have gone live in the ad server.

Internet ad revenues hit a historic high of $23.1 billion in the first half of 2014, according to the IAB. Display advertising alone accounted for $3.3 billion, or 28 percent of total Q2 2014 revenue. The stakes are huge and premium assets are particularly critical for publishers; typically, about 20 percent of a publisher’s inventory still earns 70 percent of the revenue. It is no secret that data is playing a tremendous role in this growth. All kinds of data—audience, performance, brand engagement, viewability. The list goes on and on. As a result, underperforming premium inventory has a huge impact on overall profitability, not only from a spend perspective, but an underperforming ROI perspective as well, if that data isn’t forced to perform.

Achieving performance is becoming ever more challenging. Few publishers are resourced sufficiently to handle the myriad of tools they use. Add in upward of 5 types of data on thousands of line items, and it’s no surprise that they could not possibly digest all of the mid-campaign data, let alone course correct for every campaign that is underperforming. As publishers must prove value to their advertisers, they are forced to manually amalgamate the metrics brands want to know about, good ol’ click-thru rates (CTR) and its antiquated friends unique views, et al. And now, thankfully, far more evolved metrics that might actually speak to the coveted brand dollars we are all chasing.

So, which metrics matter most to brands today?

Delivery
At a basic level, whether purchased directly or programmatically, brands want their booked campaigns to achieve their delivery goals and ensure their advertising is reaching its audience in full. They can liken this to Nielsen data—but this is real time!

Viewability & Viewable Impressions
Brands want to ensure their ads have been seen, and finally a standard has emerged for viewable display impressions: a minimum of 50 percent of pixels in view for a minimum of one second, as prescribed by the IAB. The devaluation of impressions below the fold has been solved for, and publishers can guarantee brands viewable impressions.

Interaction Rates
Interaction rate is the total number of rich media interactive impressions divided by the total number of rich media impressions. For example, if a rich media advertisement was served 100 times and 30 impressions experienced interaction, the interaction is 30 percent.

Dwell Time
Linked to interaction rates is Dwell Time, referring to the length of time a visitor spends actively engaging with an ad. Longer dwell times indicate greater “stickiness” and point to a strong, positive impact for the brand. Translation to what brand advertisers have always used—Brand Recall.

Given the Internet’s ability to be an instantly measurable medium, brands expect greater performance across these new metrics, and publishers must be equipped to deliver to them. Yet there is a disconnect, especially in premium, in that we are measuring real time, but not fine-tuning the campaigns for best performance. Most of the larger publishers have already invested in the data to support this type of tuning, now they have to make that data work for them. It is no longer sufficient to set a campaign live and let it run, only to discover at the end that it underperformed or could have performed better.

The metrics that matter most to brands align to value rather than volume; they speak directly to branding and business goals. But to hit these goals, campaigns need to be massaged mid-stream. Many of the industry’s RTB solutions have optimization built in—why aren’t publishers employing optimization tools to ensure their premium is delivering and performing to its full potential? Expecting their operations teams to digest all of this data on a daily basis is irrational, and simply is not happening. The squeaky wheel (angry buyer) might be addressed, but 80-90 percent of campaigns are never touched. Should publishers really leave the majority of revenue to chance?  This is a level of service their buyers deserve, and more than likely will begin to demand.

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