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With the majority of UK ad spending now devoted to the digital realm, internet-based ad efforts are increasingly under the microscope.
According to eMarketer’s new report, “UK Measurement and Viewability: Tracking the Served Ad Journey” (available only to eMarketer PRO subscribers), three measurement considerations have become particularly top of mind when assessing the quality of digital advertising: ad fraud, brand safety and viewability. The good news is that the UK seems to be doing better than average when some of those scores are tallied, though recent high-profile news stories show there's still more to be done.
Spending lost to ad fraud—of which there are several types—has ballooned to more than $7 billion annually worldwide, according to the Association of National Advertisers. However, an October 2016 study of UK advertising and marketing professionals by the Global Alliance of Data-Driven Marketing Associations (GDMA) and Winterberry Group found less than 10% of respondents considered ad fraud caused by bots (or nonhuman traffic) to be a challenge.
Numbers show ad fraud in the UK has been less common than headlines would lead one to believe. A study by Integral Ad Science found the rate of ad fraud for UK campaigns not optimized against fraud was just 4.9% in the first half of 2016. When ad fraud prevention technology was used, that rate dropped to a mere 0.3%.
More recently, brand safety has been a big story following revelations that ads from some of the UK’s biggest companies, and even some government agencies, were appearing alongside extremist content on sites like YouTube. Those discoveries may subsequently have changed marketers’ minds, but pre-revelation polling in the UK found brand safety ranked low on the list of concerns of UK digital video advertisers surveyed by Collective last autumn, with only 3.9% of respondents calling it their biggest barrier to greater digital video investment.
Preventative measures like the use of pre-bid verification software to vet programmatic advertising, experiments with whitelists and blacklists, and self-imposed measures by publishers to better police content may help calm concerns kicked up a notch earlier this year.
Viewability is UK marketers’ third key concern, and apparently a more justified one. Studies have shown it’s an area where the UK lags its peers. A Meetrics analysis, for one, found the UK had the lowest ad viewability rate (49%) of four countries studied in Q4 2016, compared with a 63% average among Austria, France and Germany.
Some point to programmatic advertising as a factor in the UK’s lesser standing by that measure—eMarketer predicts 76% of UK digital display ad spending will be funneled through programmatic pipes this year, compared with 54% in Germany, for instance—but some studies have shown viewability was better for inventory (digital video ads in particular) purchased programmatically via private marketplace than bought direct from a publisher, so trading method may be just one element of the problem.
UK internet users’ skill at avoiding digital ads could be another cause of low viewability. And for that reason, marketers have begun to focus on other potentially more meaningful measures of engagement, such as viewthrough or viewable completion rates for video ads.
As John Hook, vice president of agencies and brands for EMEA at AdColony, said in an interview with eMarketer: “Viewthrough is incredibly important. We have to evolve from asking, did someone have the opportunity to see the ad, toward asking did they engage with the ad, and what did they do next.”
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