Restoring trust in digital advertising depends on solving the issues of viewability, brand safety, fraud and target audiences in a simplified and unified way so brands and agencies can feel confident their message is being seen by the right people to make an impact.
This lack of trust is one of the -- if not the most -- critical issues on the global advertising agenda that the needs to be solved in order for the entire industry to move forward. Echoing this concern, Paul Frampton, CEO of Havas Media, closed the Real-Time Advertising Summit in London recently by stating, “Clients are clearly questioning trust because of viewability and fraud so we need to sort it out. [Quoting an advertiser], you need to get the confidence back of brands before we move forward.”
While a bewildering host of industry initiatives, standards, and product features have been announced by various companies, Comscore aims to provide simple yet effective ways to make advertising more valuable by addressing the four key attributes that will bring trust and transparency to digital advertising:
There have been several key developments in our validated Campaign Essentials (vCE) service internationally in recent days to bring faster, granular and more accurate campaign reporting to the market that align with these four key attributes, namely:
Take a look at how Comscore is delivering both trust and transparency in advertising by aligning with the four aforementioned principles:
Target Audience ValidationOliver Gertz, MD Interaction EMEA for Mediacom, has complained that digital advertising is good at targeting users by behaviour but often poor at hitting or reporting on real people by demographics, the staple measure of brand campaigns in other media. Comscore benchmarks put in-target rates at between 38-51% for primary demographic targets in major European markets. To address this issue of comparable metrics for brand advertising of people exposed and Target Rating Points (TRPs), Comscore provides audience validation as part of vCE. As of December 2014, Comscore is dramatically increasing the granularity of reporting in the U.K, Canada and Italy to support even small campaigns, through the inclusion of census profile data to enhance our panel-based observations. Using a multi-source approach for census profile data, Comscore reduces potential bias while maintaining the panel as the source of truth for calibration. The Comscore panel is approved by UKOM, the UK industry body for online audience measurement, backed by the Internet Advertising Bureau and the Association of Online Publishers, with board representation from Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and IPA, the UK agency association. Audience validation with its ability to report on actual people is a necessary part of the move to online brand advertising, combined valid impressions that are in-view, brand safe and fraud-free. This enhanced granularity will roll out to other markets in 2015.
Viewability“Standards” and “audits” may not be the most exciting words but they are crucial for producing trusted and comparable metrics that the industry can rally around. As the industry accepts the move to viewable impressions, it has been plagued by inconsistent reporting from different vendors resulting from partial standards compliance. Two recent audits have rated Comscore highly for compliance.
As a European with our proud history of joint industry committees (JICs) for solving media measurement challenges , it pains me that it is the USA who have out-JICed the rest of the world to work together to make digital advertising more attractive to brand advertisers. All credit to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and the auditors from the Media Rating Council (MRC) for forming Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) back in 2011: In their guiding principles, principle 1 calls for the counting of viewable impressions, rather than just served ones. (Principle 2 calls for the reporting of exposed people rather just impressions, as is delivered by the Comscore audience validation service mentioned above). In the latest MRC viewability audit report released in November 2014, Comscore has one of the most comprehensive compliance statements.
In the UK, JICWEBS, the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards, sets the agenda for viewability, brand safety and fraud, with Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) as the leading auditor. ABC’s recent audit on viewability also rated Comscore highly for compliance, and identified areas of non-compliance in some other vendors that help explain the inconsistent results that have confused the transition to viewable impressions. Josh Chasin, our Chief Research Officer, highlights the findings in this blog.
In Europe, IAB Europe’s Brand Advertising Initiative focuses on metrics, creating a framework with compatibility with 3MS while allowing national markets to build upon them. To aid industry education, IAB Europe is about to release a comprehensive whitepaper on viewability. The 3MS related standards are also supported and endorsed by IAB Canada.
To address the fast growing sector of mobile advertising, Comscore is also extending its ad viewability reporting globally to cover mobile applications as of December 2014.
Non-Human Traffic including FraudThe removal of non-human traffic has been a central part of Comscore audience planning tools since our founding in 1999, and since 2008 in campaign validation. Sadly, as the value of online advertising has grown, it has attracted more fraud. “Drug level money without having to kill anyone” was how one industry executive put it. In response, the same parties behind 3MS have recently formed the Trustworthy Accountable Group in the US, and in the UK the IAB and JICWEBS have both formed Fraud committees. The nature of fraud as a game of cat and mouse makes industry standards hard to keep up to date, so guiding principles are required and a continuous investment to counter whatever are the latest fraud techniques. It is for this reason that Comscore recently acquired MdotLabs, a cyber-security firm, whose technology is being rolled out in vCE from December 2014 globally. MdotLabs advance filters augment Comscore’s already robust triple detections methods of panels, census page tagging and ad tagging – an unmatched set of assets in the industry. As MRC Executive Director and CEO George Ivie commented in our last viewability audit, “We reviewed vCE Validation in the context of MRC’s plans to strengthen and modernize industry requirements around non-human traffic detection processes in digital advertising measurement, and came away highly impressed with Comscore’s advanced approach in this key area.”
For more reading on the topic of fraud detection, there are two recent blogs, from Paul Barford, one of MDotLabs founders - A Security + Big Data Approach to Non-Human Traffic Removal - and one from Josh Chasin, our Chief Research Officer: Progressing Toward a Human GRP in Digital.
Brand SafetyThe final piece to ensure confidence is Brand Safety. Both IAB in the US and JICWEBS in the UK have issued standards in this area against which Comscore has been audited by both the MRC and ABC. vCE provides a variety of alerts and blocks that can be set up to ensure impressions are not delivered in brand-unsafe content – such as adult sites or hate sites. Many of our clients leverage custom capabilities to set up blacklists and whitelists, and our technology allows them to adjust their alerts or blocks mid-campaign without having to re-traffic tags.
Once there is broad adoption of these four key attributes of campaign validation, the industry will not only provide trust for advertisers, but also an ideal platform for the creative types in agencies to achieve the goal set by Dan Wieden for brand advertising: “Just move me, dude”.
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