Are you ready for the holidays?

09/19 By IAS Team
holiday webinar

Campaign performance is always important, but it’s critical during the holiday season.

Brands needs to know that their ads are being viewed by real people – or risk losing the chance to improve ROI on media campaigns. Considering £17.6 billion was spent on shopping during the 2018 holiday season, according to eMarketer, the opportunity for marketers is huge.

But how do brands capitalise on this lucrative period? In the following blog post we recap the key takeaways from our recent Tricks of the Trade: 2019 Holiday Buying webinar. Within the webinar, we examine the media quality trends IAS observed during the 2018 holiday season and explain how to apply these learnings to your 2019 programmatic campaigns.

Based on IAS data, from 23 UK retailers between November 2018 and January 2019, we were able to deep dive into the 2018 holiday programmatic trends. Below we outline the key insights across impression volume, viewability and ad fraud and the tricks of the trade to make the most of this holiday season. Please note, with regards to brand safety, our data showed no seasonal differences and is therefore not included.

Impression volume

Volume peaks the day before Super Saturday – the last Saturday before Christmas and the busiest shopping day in the country. Following Super Saturday, impression volume starts to decline and levels off after New Year – as individuals celebrate, they browse fewer pages.

When considering device, both mobile and desktop impression volume patterns remain similar – however, mobile overtakes desktop at the weekends. Looking into video performance, volume levels remain high throughout December.

Tricks of the trade

1. Reach consumers via mobile in December – people are on-the-go ahead of Christmas and will be spending additional time on their mobile devices. This is a great opportunity to engage them with your brand
2. Beware of supply constraints around Christmas and New Year. If your brands expect an up-lift on these days, consider increasing your bid price
3. Implement separate trading strategies for display and video during December, as video viewing increases during this time

Ad fraud

Ad fraud has dropped slightly year on year, a trend we expect to continue as more campaigns shift towards programmatic, the adoption of ads.txt increases and more advanced machine learning models for fraud protection are created. However, fraud does and always will, spike during the holiday season.

Delving into device, UK desktop inventory is at a higher risk of ad fraud than mobile, yet mobile ad fraud rates are increasing, which can perhaps be attributed to an increasing value for mobile ads.

Another area at high risk of ad fraud is video, a highly valuable and therefore lucrative area for bad actors – last year we can see that ad fraud in video went up to almost 4% during New Years eve.

Tricks of the trade

1. Apply pre-bid fraud targeting in open auction & curated marketplaces. It is important as even if you get reimbursements for ad fraud from your partners, there’s a time cost to fraud for a marketer, especially during the holiday season
2. Leverage partners who protect against SIVT. Work with partners that invest in sophisticated anti-fraud detection and optimisation tools
3. Tap into quality video supply & work with trusted partners. It’s about quality as much as it is about quantity, especially around such peak periods. Favour working with trusted marketplaces and partners to ensure that your investment will give you the maximum return


Viewability appears fairly consistent over the holiday season, hovering between 60-67%, an expected 5-10% dip, compared with the rest of the year. This is specifically prevalent during Black Friday and Super Saturday, when viewability can be up to 20% percentage points lower than the average IAS Media Quality benchmark. However, following the holidays when consumers are looking to return unwanted items, viewability starts to improve, hovering around 70%

Looking further into viewability, consumers appear to be watching more video when they are on vacation, as video viewability is consistently higher than desktop during this time. Mobile trends mirror consumer trends, with mobile viewability is generally lower than desktop.

Tricks of the trade

1. In order to protect increase the effectiveness of your programmatic campaigns fully make sure that you are leveraging a viewability solution that also considers fraud data and that is in real-time.
2. When it comes to mobile trends in viewability, it’s important to remember that this is 2018 data. With the improvements driven by the Open Measurement SDK and the advancements that it brought with regards to in-app viewability measurement, we can expect a more favourable output when we’ll run the analysis on 2019 data.

And so – in summary, the top three takeaways to consider when planning your holiday buying, are:

1. Beware of Super Saturday and implement pre-bid viewability targeting, to make the most of exposure at such peak consideration time
2. Focus on Video, as even if generally more expensive, it’s more likely to effectively influence consumer behaviour due to higher viewability rates
3. Capitalise on New Year’s Day viewing to drive exchanges instead of returns


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