An interview with Darren Sharp, Incisive Media, and Jenny Antoniou, Dennis Publishing

07/04 By IAS Team

Integral Ad Science talks to Darren Sharp, Head of Programmatic and Data at Incisive Media and Jenny Antoniou, Head of Ad Operations at Dennis Publishing to hear their expert insight into the challenges around viewability, such as issues with site latency and demand-side targets.

What issues are you currently facing with creative load times and its potential impact on viewability measurement?

Darren Sharp (DS), Incisive Media: Our ad server has upgraded its technology; due to this we now load tags over a legacy system, our ads typically load after other content on the page. This has a negative impact on viewability measurement. When advertisers provide us with heavy creative it causes slow loading ads, enormously increasing the potential for reduced viewability. Our sites see a wide range of viewability rates for identical ad positions, this can only be due to the slow loading ad creative.

Jenny Antoniou (JA), Dennis Publishing: There has been an increase in the number of third-party libraries being included in the creative tags we receive, this dramatically increases the number of network requests when delivered on our websites. We calculate on average over 40 networks hops across our portfolio, whilst the IAB recommend a maximum of 15. Whilst such third party technology is a necessity in the digital landscape, multiple optimisation steps could be taken to ensure smoother delivery, for example– non-critical libraries could be included at the end of code in a non-blocking fashion. Waiting for these external assets to load dramatically increases overall load times, causing viewability rates to decrease.

What viewability targets have you experienced the buy-side requesting? Are their viewability targets achievable?

DS, Incisive: Although we haven’t yet been asked for a target of 100% viewability, benchmarks are being requested, typically over 70%. When migrating our sites to a fully responsive design we had the increased demands in viewability at the back of our minds, as a result we now load the majority of our below the fold placements using onscroll or lazy loading, which has achieved much higher viewability rates.

JA, Dennis Publishing: The targets requested from the buy-side have varied from between 60-80%, with an increasing number of clients demanding the upper end of that range. These numbers become challenging to achieve when running multiple campaigns that have high viewability targets, coupled with ad latency and discrepancies.

The main challenge is education; ideally clients and agencies should have a realistic blend of metrics to achieve quality in a campaign. We want to work with clients to optimise towards and achieve their end goals, not just have viewability as a proxy to success. If we simply optimise towards the highest viewability rate, it doesn’t always mean that advertisers automatically receive the lowest CPA, some buyers don’t realise this.

Are there specific ad units that create greater challenges when running campaigns targeted to viewability?

DS, Incisive: Billboards can create challenges when wanting to achieve higher viewability rates. Billboards run at the top of the page and by the time the ad has fully loaded, a user may have already scrolled down the page before the ad is viewed.

JA, Dennis Publishing: Our sites vary in average viewability rates, but high dwell times on pages ensure that we fair well overall. Formats where ad latency is an issue prove the most difficult to optimise and therefore challenging when targeted to viewability. Marketer’s using different vendors to measure viewability further complicates viewability measurement.

Where do you think ultimate responsibility for ad creative size lies: the creative agency, media agency, publisher or elsewhere?

DS, Incisive: It should be everyone’s responsibility to control and set guidelines for ad creative size. Ultimately, the industry needs to work to realistic creative guidelines that everyone can easily follow. Publishers should reject ad creative not meeting these set guidelines, so that flexibility isn’t an option for the advertiser. There can be a separation between what the creative agency thinks is visually appealing and what the media agency needs when trying to meet viewability targets.

JA, Dennis Publishing: We also believe that all parties share responsibility for the ad creative size. As a publisher we try to guide and give as much advice as possible, whilst ensuring optimal delivery. However, the robustness of the creative should remain the agency’s responsibility. At Dennis, we are running automated and manual checks on the tags we receive in order to pre-empt delivery issues.

What are you doing as a publisher to address both creative weight challenges and latency in site load times?

DS, Incisive: As a member of the AOP (Association of Online Publishers) we are consistently monitoring these challenges within the AOP Ad Operations group. This group aims to set creative guidelines that all publishers and agencies can use as a standard.

JA, Dennis Publishing: A continuous monitoring process is key for us to identify creative weight issues and allows us to collect and relay information back to agencies. The impact of creative weight issues will be minimised with the introduction of HTML5, although this is still in its infancy. We believe collecting and analysing information about the best and worst practices is critical in laying the foundations to more efficient advertising.

Does the impact of creative size and latency influence your outlook of trading on viewability?

DS, Incisive: Publishers should only work with elements that are within our control. Viewability should be based on a consumer’s “opportunity to see,” this means that publishers should begin the viewability count as soon as the tag loads, not when the creative renders. Any ad latency would then be the sole responsibility of the advertiser. This would ensure that ads load as quickly as possible.

JA, Dennis Publishing: A recent audit we carried out proved that the number of network requests had a greater impact on load times and ultimately on our viewability rates. We monitor this at every stage of our campaigns and relay this information back to clients to let them know if it is impacting their viewability. This means that it may take both sides more time and resource as we all strive for better efficiency and quality.