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Financial Times kicks off trials to sell advertisers ‘blocks of time’ to tackle industry’s viewability issue

The Financial Times is set to begin a new method of digital trading, selling blocks of time to advertisers in a bid to tackle the industry’s ad viewability problem. The publisher has been trialling a method whereby the amount of time users are exposed to ads is measured and clients can buy inventory using a currency of ad time rather than ad space. The FT has been working with New York firm Chartbeat on developing the method and it expects it to launch fully in the fourth quarter of this year. The FT’s commercial director of digital advertising and insight, Jon Slade, told The Drum that the IAB’s recently established standard viewability metric for display advertising was a welcome development, but that it didn’t go far enough. In April, the IAB settled on a requirement for 50 per cent of an ad to be viewable for a minimum of one second as an acceptable measurement for an ‘in-view’ ad. “It’s great that the industry has at least settled on a definition, but we should go a lot further than that,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of research into our B2B audience, our clients and agencies, and by far the majority of them would agree that 50 per cent and one second is a good start but it’s really not enough, and there’s more we could be doing to prove the value of display advertising.” The viewability issue has become increasingly contentious in recent months, with advertisers demanding more accountability with their online media spend. In response, the FT has both consulted with the IAB in the UK and US and carried out its own research into ways to tackle the problem and establish a more efficient method. The result is a system Slade says is more closely aligned with TV advertising, which focuses instead on the time users are exposed to ads and trades inventory using that currency. “We can now report back to a client and say ‘we served you a thousand ads, and of those, 500 were seen for one second, 250 were seen for 10 seconds and 250 were seen for 30 seconds,” Slade went on. “The next obvious step is to sell blocks of time. “We can sell a thousand hours of exposure to a chief executive audience in Germany, for example, or we can give clients 500 hours of exposure to finance directors in Belgium. That currency has a lot of merit. “We have three trials running at the moment, and we’re able to tell pretty conclusively so far that when we serve an ad to an audience that we know is going to spend a long time with the ad in view that the benefit to that client is far more profound.” The method will serve as an additional choice for clients buying advertising space, not as a direct replacement for current methods. According to Slade, initial research carried out by the FT has shown more than 40 per cent of clients gave the idea a “double thumbs up”, while 90 per cent of media buyers expect they will soon be fully trading on viewability metrics. “The kind of comments that come back from it are that it’s more in line with what clients are doing with other media, like TV,” Slade said, adding that the FT hopes other publishers will follow suit. “We’ll certainly be advocating to other publishers that it’s something they look at,” he said.

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