When it comes to viewability, what you see isn’t always what you get.
It seems that every day brings a negative report about unseen advertising, wasted investment or misrepresented metrics by large publishers. Concerns over fraudulent traffic and the re-emergence of silent, auto-play, small-player video are raising new questions about the definition of a video view—a concept that once seemed straightforward.
The industry is calling on its leaders to take action. Procter & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, gave a widely lauded speech at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in January, announcing new requirements for the company’s media vendors to clean up the supply chain. He spoke on this subject again this week at 4A’s Transformation 2017. We’ve also seen brands and agencies recently remove their content from platforms in response to questionable user generated content. At Spotify, we’re thinking hard about product innovation and third-party measurement, because we agree that as an industry, we can do better.
Many might consider ad format quality, invalid traffic, bad measurement, and low-quality user generated content to be separate challenges that advertisers face today. The truth is, they’re all related. Viewability should consider whether an ad reached an actual human and whether that message was able to be seen and heard, on a screen, from start to finish in a high-quality environment. Simple, right?
The most recent MOAT industry benchmark for video viewability in Q4 on desktop (at the standard of 2 seconds) was 56 percent. That benchmark drops all the way to 26.1 percent when also accounting for audibility and whether viewability occurred at completion. Based on this widely accepted industry standard, three out of four viewers aren’t listening to and viewing your ad by the end. That’s a lot of waste.
Thus, if we focus solely on viewability metrics for screen pixels and length of continuous exposure, no matter when viewership actually occurred, we miss the bigger picture. Autoplay video units make it easy for consumers to scan, scroll and swipe right through ads without attention or comprehension. This means that while viewability thresholds are poor across the industry, the number of ads seen and heard by actual people—all the way through—is even worse.
These ongoing issues might make it feel like we’re living in a post-data world—one where digital advertising offers no more real insight than traditional print or TV ads. I don’t think that’s true. But in order to make real connections with audiences, we’ll have to rethink how we leverage the vast amounts of data that large-scale platforms collect daily to build innovative solutions that make more meaningful connections.
At Spotify, we’re approaching these challenges in three ways. First, when we create a product—in my case, a video product—we think about context. This idea of context has been creeping up a lot lately, as publishers are recognizing the limitations of cookie-based targeting and are looking toward people-based marketing. We know that when ads are intrusive or irrelevant, they’re also ineffective. Since Spotify users are logged in across devices, we can supplement that validated demographic and behavioral data with proprietary data—namely, the unique context that music consumption provides. People soundtrack their life moments, both big and small, to affect their moods and enhance their days. By building video ad formats for the environment, mindset or mood of our audience, we strive to benefit the advertiser while respecting the consumer.
Second, we’ve ensured that all desktop and mobile video formats are viewed by logged-in users and guaranteed by Moat’s Human+AVOC standard (HAVOC), in which the percentage of impressions delivered are viewable and audible upon completion. If an ad isn’t seen or heard, it can never have impact on business outcomes. We offer assurance that our audience is listening and viewing advertising at the completion of that message, not just the start. HAVOC is the most robust media metric on the market today, and we believe that by having Moat, a leading third-party provider, verify that all paid media is delivered on this definition, we can virtually eliminate all risk in wasted media.
Finally, as an in-app entertainment platform, Spotify was built to be a quality ad environment. This isn’t in response to the recent controversy and conversation about brand environments. That’s just always been who we are. The content on Spotify is licensed from our partners or created by our in-house team.
Spotify will continue to innovate with ad products that meet the highest of viewability standards in quality environments, offering brands new and meaningful opportunities to engage with our passionate and engaged users. It’s up to all of us in the industry to make sure that a view truly counts.
Brian Danzis is the global head of video monetization at Spotify.