Ask for cost per human, anything less is illogical

Grant Millar: chief executive of ZenithOptimedia
Grant Millar: chief executive of ZenithOptimedia

Sadly, Mr Spock was not at ISBA's conference last month, but I like to think he would have waded into the debate on online ad viewability. It is easy to apply the Vulcan's famous homily to the state of our online ad market: "Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

The day started with a Google study that found only 50 per cent of ad impressions were currently viewable to end users. This led to the customary misattribution of the apocryphal "I know that half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half".

For those working in digital media, these figures are not surprising. So what is meant by viewability? Put simply, it’s the opportunity for an ad to be seen by a human being as opposed to being scanned only by a bot. From a technical perspective, it can be a bit open to interpretation and, with the rise of programmatic and machine-to-machine optimisation, as well as some nefarious practices by rogue players, concern is growing.

Industry initiatives such as Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) are working towards guidelines for measurement and driving change in buying models, factoring in the current available technology. 3MS’s guidance states that 50 per cent of a display ad’s pixels must be visible for one second, 50 per cent of a video ad’s pixels for two seconds and 30 per cent of a large display ad’s pixels for one second.

'Viewability must be integrated into an actionable measurement framework that refuses the fraudulent use of bots'

Meanwhile, according to Facebook, one pixel of an ad must be visible for one second. The point is: there isn’t a universal standard.

While 3MS has provided guidelines, we still see multiple interpretations of the metric. And although it has a goal of achieving 100 per cent human viewability, we are not there yet. With online advertising set to attract the highest share of marketing spend, such discrepancies need to be addressed.

Richard Eyre challenged the industry to put the trust back into advertising at the Advertising Association’s Lead event in January. So let me be clear: viewability isn’t something we should push for, it must be integrated into an actionable measurement framework that methodologically refuses the fraudulent use of bots.

At ZenithOptimedia, we have been working with our programmatic solution, AOD, to define a new currency. We call it cost per human. It’s a simple equation: the cost of marketing to a human = factor of our cost per mille rates divided by human viewability and fraud.

Getting impressions in front of humans will inevitably cost more but, this way, we can have confidence that it is a pure – and therefore more effective – exercise for our clients. So come on, industry, let’s set a new currency: cost per human.

Grant Millar is the chief executive of ZenithOptimedia

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