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November 1, 2016
A guy walks in to his doctor’s office and says, “Help, my brother thinks he’s a chicken.” The doctor replies, “Why don’t you turn him in?”
The man replies, “Because I need the eggs.”
This joke – which famously bookends Woody Allen’s Annie Hall as an encapsulation of our need for romantic love – is also a pretty neat summary of some marketers’ continuing attachment to failing digital advertising techniques.
Marketers celebrate cheap CPMs even though those buys aren’t doing much for their business. Why? They need to impress their superiors by getting good deals even though the returns are illusory. They need the eggs.
The alternative is to seek out quality over quantity – even if that means paying higher CPMs.
The Problem: Fraud and Viewability
It’s no secret that the Internet is teeming with bots. These automated bits of code run rampant, making it look as if many more people have seen your ad than they actually have.
How many are out there? A 2015 ANA study found that 3-37% of ad impressions were created by bots. Advertisers could lose as much as $7 billion globally this year because of ad fraud, according to the report.
Even if your ads have the potential to get in front of actual humans, there’s a good chance they didn’t see the ad. That’s because it’s either tucked away in a far corner of the page or the reader is scrolling too fast to catch it. On average, about 30% of ads don’t meet the threshold for viewability, according to the ANA and research by Sizmek.
To top this off, even stalwarts like Facebook can’t always be trusted. In September, Facebook admitted that it had been overestimating how many people had viewed its video ads over the past two years by 60-80%.
The Answer: A Flight to Quality
One alternative is outstream video, which is 100% viewable and, unlike social media videos, doesn’t continue to play after the user scrolls past. Marketers can also pay only for completed views.
There are other ways though to ensure that the impressions you’re getting (and the CPMs you’re paying) are legit. For its part, the ANA recommends putting language on non-human traffic within the terms and conditions of an ad buy. Advertisers can insist on writing in such terms to insertion orders.
Another option is to work with companies like DoubleVerify or another such third party that holds ad companies accountable for the quality of their ad buys.
The best overall approach though is to gain a deep knowledge of the programmatic landscape and its various pitfalls. CMOs need to articulate this situation (backed up by data) to others in the C-Suite to dispel the notion that low CPMs equal savvy buying.
That all takes some doing. However, as the old expression goes: To make an omelet, you need to break some eggs.