Make a list, check it twice: a holiday buying guide

11/11 By IAS Team

The holiday buying season is already upon us, and brands need to ensure that their campaigns will hit the mark. During this busy time of year, consumers are spending more time on their devices, meaning that digital campaign performance is especially critical. In our recent webinar, “Holiday Buying Unwrapped,” we analyzed campaign data collected from 29 U.S. retail advertisers during last year’s holiday buying season. 

Here we will discuss the 5 key takeaways we’ve identified to help you maximize your return during this holiday buying season, as well as answer common questions we received after the webinar. 

Key takeaways

Fraudsters go where the dollars go

When it comes to minimizing waste, eradicating ad fraud should be at the top of the list. While ad fraud is a risk to be kept in mind year-round, campaigns have proven to be at a higher risk during December, particularly closer to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Since video typically yields higher CPMs than display, video buys are more susceptible to bad actors. Make sure your campaigns are protected from fraudulent activity by applying pre-bid fraud filters. 

Beware of supply constraints

Not surprisingly, video inventory is in high demand during the holiday buying season. If your brand wants to heavy-up on video leading up to Thanksgiving, you may want to increase your bid price to win valuable video inventory. 

Think critically about video versus display strategies 

While display is great for direct response and video is preferred for branding purposes, consumer behavior patterns show that video viewership traditionally increases in December. As exemplified by the higher viewability rates and time spent viewing video compared to display, video is more likely to influence consumer behavior. We recommend focusing on video to drive effective and meaningful engagements. 

Increase engagement through mobile devices

People are typically on-the-go and traveling during the holiday season, which means they will be spending additional time on their mobile devices. The National Retail Federation found that 43% of Gen Z and 38% of millennials are expected to spend more money this upcoming holiday season, so make sure you implement a mobile strategy that reaches the full age spectrum of your audience. 

Minimize wasted impressions through keyword pre-bid optimization

Advertisers are unique and have their own standards for brand safety, but they’re all working toward the same goal: avoid unsuitable content before purchasing an impression. As much as the industry is trying to move away from relying on keyword exclusion lists, most advertisers today still use these lists as part of their post-bid brand safety strategies. Pre-bid targeting acts as additional protection to media buys, as post-bid blocking alone does not provide full protection. That’s why we always recommend using pre-bid targeting and post-bid blocking solutions together to provide full protection. At IAS, our Custom Keyword Pre-bid solution was designed to align with IAS advertisers’ blocking settings and allows the DSP to query URLs for those settings to avoid bidding on unwanted impressions.


How can I buy more mobile in-app measurable inventory at scale?

We have a few suggestions for those of you looking to buy more in-app measurable inventory. You can either buy direct from the publisher or from monetization partners who have integrated the Open Measurement SDK (OM SDK). If you’re buying programmatically through PMPs, make sure that you’re requesting OM SDK measurable inventory only. 

When buying programmatically on the open exchange, you may run into a bit of a snag. The Open RTB 2.5 spec enabled a new flag in the real-time bidding request (OMID flag), allowing DSPs to target measurable inventory directly. Without this enabled, DSPs cannot target all OM SDK certified inventory, limiting media quality measurement today.  DSPs and SSPs are encouraged to support open RTB protocols for OMID. Advertisers should request prioritization of OMID support from all programmatic partners. 

We all need to band together to continue to drive towards greater transparency and open measurement on mobile. 

I can’t target all in-app inventory when buying on the open exchange. Does this limitation extend to both in-app display and video inventory? What is IAS doing to help address this issue? 

While both video and display in-app inventory are impacted by this limitation, it is especially critical for in-app video ads, where other measurement options, like MRAID, are not available. 

IAS has partnered with the IAB Tech Lab to pioneer the open measurement initiative and continue to drive awareness and adoption of the OM SDK in-market. We have certified several partners to be OM SDK compliant and are actively working with partners in the digital ecosystem to identify and surface Open Measurement measurable impressions within the capabilities of the real-time bidding (RTB) protocol. 

Given that MRAID is being deprecated by the IAB, measurability will suffer unless the OM SDK is widely adopted by all players in the ecosystem as soon as possible. 

Do you expect Amazon Prime Day to impact Q4 holiday buying trends?

Amazon Prime Day has certainly shaken up traditional holiday buying, which has typically been reserved for Q4. This past July saw Amazon’s most profitable Prime Day yet, bringing in $7 billion and surpassing previous Prime Days, as well as the combined Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales. However, holiday ad spend during Q4 2019 still stands to exceed that of 2018. Since fraudsters go where the money goes, we anticipate higher fraud rates to hit during this time next year. 

What should we be thinking about when it comes to post-bid strategies for the holiday buying season?

Any sound buying strategy should always start with measurement. Make sure your tags are properly wrapped to verify performance and media quality. In addition to pre-bid filtering, it’s important to have a firm blocking strategy in place post bid, ensuring that your brand stays protected every step of the way. 

When it comes to post-bid protection, buyers should stick to the same strategy that has proven to be effective throughout the year, and try to avoid making too many changes during the busy season. Every impression and every dollar counts, so ensure that you have a solid blocking and post-bid verification solution in place.

How do you expect political campaign ad spending to affect the landscape, inventory, or bidding pool?

Digital advertising has undoubtedly revolutionized consumer purchasing behavior and brand favorability. It has also played a critical role in influencing politics, as exemplified during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. That said, political ad spending is predicted to reach $9.9 billion in 2020, according to the latest U.S. advertising forecast from Group M. 

Many buyers have shifted their media buying strategies to focus on contextual relevance and insisted on applying extra conservative blocking measures in order to protect their brands. We expect that news publishers who have verified that their inventory is fraud-free, viewable, and most importantly, brand suitable, will charge higher CPMs and likely package more PMP deals at a premium to capture those political ad dollars. 

In the words of Peter Parker’s late Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As a buyer, you should expect higher CPMs, more desirable PMP deals available and a wider inventory pool available. 

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