Viewability Affects Digital Brand Advertising More Than DR

With fraud and viewability making splashes in the digital advertising trade press, I find it curious that nobody seems to be talking about how different types of digital campaigns are affected by them in different ways.

If you’re running a direct response campaign, you might not even care about fraud or viewability, particularly if you’re buying media on a pay-for-performance or a revenue-sharing model.  Simply put, you’re paying when someone clicks or buys, so if it takes more ad impressions to prompt the click or sale, it’s okay because you’re not paying anything more for your media.

You can also look at it this way: Your media is actually performing better than you thought it was.  By way of example, if your click rate was 0.1% and half of your impressions weren’t viewable or were fraudulent, your CTR is actually 0.2%.  Congratulations.

The implications, though, are much worse if your success measurement is based on a reach model, or a projection of an effect from a smaller sample of activity.

Let’s say, for example, your brand equates a 15% lift in brand favorability to a 2% lift in sales. Unless bots are faking responses to brand surveys, your favorability lift among the smaller sample size might even be valid.  However, if your bigger campaign is designed to hit 50 percent of your brand’s buying target at the 3+ level and 50% of your impressions are invalid thanks to fraud and low viewability, you probably never got there.  Your projection of the campaign’s overall effect is diminished greatly.

Same goes for CPG campaigns that calculate ROI based on offline purchase behavior.  Those ROI calculations are based on campaign reach that is 100% viewable.  If you’re losing impressions due to fraud or low viewability, your overall ROI calculation is invalid.

Some digital brand advertisers might sent their commitment levels based on digital Reach/Frequency numbers, setting an effective frequency for the message.  If success was contingent on assumptions of 100% viewability, you’ve got a problem.

So, depending on the goals of your digital campaign and how you measure it, viewability and fraud can have an impact on historical campaigns that ranges anywhere from “don’t worry about it” to “our projected effectiveness was diminished by double-digit percentages.”  It’s time to evaluate your ROI measurement and find out exactly how your individual campaigns might have been affected.

Tom Hespos is the Founder and Chief Media Officer of Underscore Marketing, an integrated media agency focusing on health and healthy brands.