Premium or bust: the programmatic players weigh in

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 19 June 2015

Buyers by and large are simply ignoring remnant inventory in their video trading plans as they go after the holy grail of inventory that is viewable, user-initiated, and measurable – meaning there's a whole market out there waiting to be bought.

Speaking with AdNews, two visiting executives from programmatic players Rocket Fuel and SpotXChange both said traders in Australia were risking not picking up inventory and impression opportunities because it was not classed as “premium” inventory.

“It's interesting because what I see is a market that in pursuit of really high quality inventory, completely discounts the other inventory as not worth less, but worthless,” SpotXchange CEO Mike Shehan told AdNews.

He said Australian traders are focused on larger format video, where users have to click play to start the video, and viewability could be tracked. This is at the expense of lower-order inventory, such as small videos that are auto-play on websites, which Shehan argued still had value.

“What we see in other markets is that [inventory] is bought, but it's bought at two, three, four dollars. There's an impression being made on that inventory, and as a consumer I'm watching it. That inventory just doesn't get bought in this market. It's just like, 'I don't want it at all'.”

It marries up with comments made by Rocket Fuel's vice president Mark Prior, who said that traders were increasingly obsessed with viewability as a key trading metric.

“On average a quarter of the inventory [in the US] across all the channels we see simply indicate whether it was viewable or not,” Prior told AdNews.

“Of that 25%, a majority are viewable but some are not.”

Google recently estimated that 64% of online ads in Australia (excluding YouTube and mobile apps) are viewable. It compares with 54% in the US and in the UK.

However, the number of ads that are marked as viewable, according to Prior, is a lot less.

“The salient point here is that we only have a view into whether it was viewable or not on a quarter of the inventory. What that means is that the other 75%, within that exists a lot of very effective media,” he said.

The industry at large doesn't recommend trading on viewability, given the current state of play.

Part of the problem, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, is that there's disagreement on whether non-measurable inventory should be treated in the same way as non-viewable inventory.

CEO of the IAB Alice Manners, recently writing for AdNews, said it was very hard to define “normal” in the market on viewability.

“The in-view rates will differ between tech vendors, publishers, placements and inventory type making it very hard to benchmark or define what is 'normal',” she wrote.

“Non-measured impressions do not equal impressions that are not viewable. Non-measured impressions do not equal fraudulent impressions.”

Until all and sundry are in agreement on what viewable actually means, Rocket Fuel is asking buyers to do something it sees as against the grain.

“Vendors and the ecosystem have to ask advertisers something that is not intuitive: that is to understand this definition of viewable and then not exclusively focus on that as the definition of something they require for media activation,” Prior said.

“The data simply isn't there yet to apply that understanding across all the inventory sources that they want access to.”

Agency traders speaking to AdNews on background said as there was no common metric in place for viewability, that it wasn't being traded against as a sole measure.

However, they said there is the possibility that when a common measure does hit the industry, that there would be a move to focus on the inventory which had a high viewability score.

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