For most of the modern history of advertising, media “quality” has been relatively straight-forward and easy to measure. In the 1990s, this was so easy in fact that in most agencies, it was relegated to one relatively junior account executive. I know, as I was one at the time and performed this duty for major advertisers in conjunction with my media department.
Quality control was easy: the television and print media plans were mostly set at the beginning of the year and we would receive “tear sheets” from a print monitor and “video logs” from a television monitor periodically to prove that our ads ran where planned. Occasionally, we would receive a call from a media company alerting us to content that we might find inappropriate, and we would be sent the script from the TV program or article from the print publisher to review. Industry-trusted audience measurement companies provided proof that an intended audience “viewed” the advertising. It seems quaint now, but this was standard operating procedure within the lifetimes of even the youngest digital ad executives working today!
In this environment, advertising and media teams could spend their time focusing on “added value” enhancements, for example, fine tuning the media buy with ad placements in contexts that would enhance the message reception, sequencing campaigns for optimal impact and message delivery, and negotiating value added editorial integration (yes, native advertising, old-school style). These were strategic and tactical additions that increased impact at no added cost.
Ironically, the digital media ecosystem has enabled savvy brands, agencies, and their media partners to achieve an unprecedented level of “added value” (e.g., granular targeting, personalized ads, contextual content integration just to name a few)—while, at the same time, creating the need for more demanding quality controls that take real time and effort to implement and monitor. Less time spent on quality issues means more time on added value—and moving closer to realizing the true potential of digital media.
That’s why the IAB Mobile Committee formed a working group, which I participated on, to prepare the IAB Advertising Quality Measurement Buyer’s Guide as a potent tool in redressing this balance. Quality is not a one-dimensional challenge and there are nuances to consider in each dimension, but the Buyers Guide provides a comprehensive checklist for buyers and sellers to use to efficiently tackle the challenges—freeing time and resources to focus on media effectiveness, which is what clients really want from their agency and publisher partners.
The guide highlights that, fundamentally, advertisers should expect their ads to be 1) viewable, 2) displayed next to brand-appropriate content and 3) seen by real people. The respective terms to describe these properties of an ad are viewability, brand safety and fraud-free which together, are referred to as Ad Quality Metrics. As Susan Borst, VP, Mobile at IAB explains, “IAB felt it was important for advertisers to take a holistic approach to these three properties versus in isolation of each other and to understand the many factors can impact the measurement of Ad Quality metrics.” The guide provides helpful examples of the nuances and tradeoffs for viewability, brand safety and fraud with a checklist that should be used in the pre-planning stages that will help facilitate a productive discussion between the buyer and seller to help make decisions with confidence. The ultimate benefit for all parties is to make better, informed decisions up-front to help eliminate unnecessary churn during flight.