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A brave new media quality world

September 28, 2016 | 6 min read

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Victoria Chappell, marketing director EMEA, Integral Ad Science, outlines the initiatives lighting the way towards a brave new world of improved quality and effectiveness in digital campaigns.

Integral Ad Science

A brave new media quality world

Over the last year, from reading the digital marketing news, it may seem that our industry is plagued with quality issues. Looking at a piece of research undertaken by OpenX in May 2015 into quality in the marketplace, the report found that 94 per cent of marketers think quality is a serious issue, especially in programmatic advertising. Media quality issues are an ever-growing area of concern for the digital advertising industry and a main cause of hesitation for those wanting to invest further.

Media quality challenges impact the entire digital advertising ecosystem, from the publisher unknowingly targeted by invalid, bot traffic, to the advertiser who is paying for advertising that is never seen. The digital industry appears to contain an array of complex challenges, and has some asking, whose responsibility is it to tackle them?

What is the digital advertising industry doing to address issues such as fraudsters siphoning off up to $7bn from global digital ad campaigns? What is it doing to tackle the problems highlighted by the Integral Ad Science H1 2016 UK report, that only 57.4 per cent of UK display campaigns are found to be in-view, and that almost eight per cent of advertising is appearing alongside inappropriate content that poses a significant risk to a brand’s reputation and messaging?

In the UK industry today there are a number of initiatives with the sole purpose of bringing greater clarity to media quality challenges. Publishers, agencies, advertisers, verification providers and industry bodies are coming together to ensure that challenges to quality are being addressed head on. Here is an overview of the core verification challenges and what the UK industry is doing to address them and to ensure the continued confidence and investment in the country’s fastest growing media channel.

Brand safety

Due to the explosion of programmatic advertising, brands now potentially face a greater risk when advertising online, with the reputational damage that can occur due to ad misplacement. In order to reduce the risk of inappropriate ad placement, and ensure media quality is of a high standard, technology vendors have built content verification (CV) tools to verify the content surrounding a digital ad. There are a variety of CV tools available to the UK marketplace and they all work in different ways. The UK’s ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) set out to create greater transparency around the methodologies of these tools and produce a report that shows the nuances of the various tools available.

At the end of May, the ABC released its latest CV report. The report compares three content verification provider’s tools; technology that is designed to crawl webpages, classifying content and making decisions on whether the content is appropriate for an advertising campaign. With the rigorous testing of the content verification tools available in the UK marketplace, the ABC is promoting greater transparency and ensuring that the content verification technology adheres to set principles that allow for best practice for brand safety. The ABC’s report highlights that CV tools implemented correctly can ensure greater brand safety in online advertising and minimise the risk of ad misplacement. The ABC’s stamp of trust underpins the way billions of pounds worth of digital advertising are traded in the UK and beyond.


The other key media quality challenge battling ad fraud for column space in the digital industry is around transparency in viewability measurement. Each year, advertisers are paying for online advertising that is never seen and there are greater calls for the industry to address this and improve overall viewability rates for campaigns.

Viewability measurement products have been developed and widely adopted by the UK industry, these products aim to count how many viewable impressions are served as part of a campaign. However there has been much debate around how viewability is defined and general confusion over how viewability products differ from vendor to vendor. The UK media industry has set out to create greater transparency around the ability to measure viewable impressions and to reduce the reporting discrepancies across viewability measurement products.

The ABC and JICWEBS are again leading the charge here in addressing viewability, alongside guidance from IAB UK. JICWEBS issued its first set of viewability principles in 2014 when the industry was struggling to understand the variances in viewability measurement. It followed this up by releasing the second edition of its UK viewability report last year, which compares six viewability products simply. Additionally, JICWEBS recently announced the next stage in the move to address online viewability challenges, producing recommended guidelines for products that aim to measure the viewability of online video advertising. This latest move to address viewability challenges aims to create greater awareness of measurement issues, improve understanding of viewability and again to ultimately promote greater trust and further investment in digital advertising.

The aim with each of these initiatives is that the entire marketplace – agencies, advertisers and publishers alike – will benefit from improved quality, accountability and effectiveness when it comes to their digital campaigns. Digital advertising is the fastest-growing ad medium in the UK, accounting for approximately 39 per cent of the total UK ad market and worth an estimated £8.6bn.

The UK industry needs to focus greater energy on working together to tackle digital’s biggest challenges; it is a shared ecosystem and requires a joined up approach. If anything, it is now more important than ever to work together to protect the online ecosystem, due to the rise of programmatic and the increasingly sophisticated nature of the online advertising supply chain.

Victoria Chappell, marketing director EMEA, Integral Ad Science


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Integral Ad Science

Integral Ad Science (IAS) is a global leader in digital media quality. IAS makes every impression count, ensuring that ads are viewable by real people, in safe and...

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