TalkTalk fortifies ad viewability crackdown ahead of plans to ‘smarten’ its programmatic buys

TalkTalk is putting the viewability of its ads under the microscope as it looks to cull media budget wastage and smarten its programmatic pre-bidding methods.

The mobile and broadband operator, which dedicates 80 per cent of its entire display ad budget to programmatic trading, is preparing its second wave of viewability trials, having been “alarmed” by the recent Google report which revealed 56 per cent of ads are not deemed ‘in-view’.

Richard Bailey, online marketing manager at TalkTalk told The Drum that since it is so heavily invested programmatic trading for its display inventory, its ad accountability is critical to hitting its direct-response targets.

Faced with the far weightier marketing budgets of rivals Sky and BT, TalkTalk must hone its ad targeting capabilities further and eliminate wastage to ensure it can stay competitive in the marketing arena, according to Bailey.

“When Google told us that 56 per cent of ad impressions served are unseen it was alarming, and made us question the accountability of what we are doing. We don’t just want to drop cookies, we are optimising as much of our activity on post click and want to properly tackle the attribution piece. But we want value for money. We don’t have the big budgets like Sky or BT so we have to be a lot smarter and more agile with our media buying,” he said.

To do so, it is also considering the launch of an in-house demand management platform (DMP) – which will centralise all its first-party data and consequently render its pre-bidding techniques “smarter”, according to Bailey.

Talk Talk, which also works with media agency MSix, is currently in discussions with Google directly over how it can achieve this, and hopes to launch the DMP later this year.

“We want to analyse our first party data better, especially site-specific data – to better understand the audiences coming to ours sites and how we can segment them better. This will mean we can move past just targeting on segments such as demographics, length of visits, page depth, towards layering on [audience] interest categories.

“It all ties in with out plans to advance our programmatic strategy and make our pre-bids smarter. We want to be bidding for inventory that is highly targeted so we can eliminate wastage – it’s about winning the bids that matter and that target where we know there is an audience willing to buy,” he said.

The majority of TalkTalk's programmatic trading is via open exchanges rather than private marketplaces, therefore it can't guarantee it will have the best inventory. This makes the issue of whether these ads are even in view to consumers more urgent, according to Bailey.

TalkTalk rolled out its first set of viewability trials around six months ago, working with Google’s DoubleClick bid manager and its Active view tool. As a result the percentage of its viewable impressions nearly doubled, while click-through rates rose 133 per cent and cost-per clicks fell 40 per cent. Post-click cost per action also dropped by 43 per cent.

Google's director of media buying solutions Philip Miles, added: "The results that Talk Talk and other advertisers are seeing from viewability targeting reinforce our commitment to keep extending viewability within our platform to give advertisers better measurement and control of their digital advertising spend. It's a big bet for us in 2015 and an area where we will continue to innovate."

Google's Active view adheres to the IAB's industry-agreed viewability standards, which specifies that 50 per cent of the ad should be in-view within the browser for a minimum of one second.

However, since the rollout of these gudielines Unilever has has openly declared its own parameters for measuring viewability, which must see 100 per cent of the ad in-view.

Bailey conceded that the 50 per cent guidelines are a "bit low" and that its own tests gear more towards the 70 per cent mark. However, he said there is no one-size fits all approach and it must carefully monitor the effect on its own campaigns.

"We just need to be careful on what effect that has on the performance of our campaigns - it could inflate costs because people are going to be bidding for viewable placements. But we also don't want to completely negate being below the fold, as that can work on certain sites like eBay for eg. It’s a fine balance. We need to find the sweet spot, which is why we are running more tests," he added.

The savings it makes can be diverted into other high-performing channels. Plans for 2015 will include exlporing ways to monetise video and defining how this form of content can be used as a direct-response tool.

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