What marketers have to say about viewability

Media directors at Mondelez, L'Oréal weigh in at ACA Forum

The big question on everyone’s mind: are marketers willing to pay publishers more for viewable impressions than they do for served impressions?

As we heard from publishers at the AdGear Summit earlier this month, media sellers typically understand the desire for increased viewability, but discounting non-viewable impressions would take a big chunk out of most publishers’ online revenue. It means they’ll have to charge more for the remaining viewable impressions to make up the difference.

Why should I pay more when everybody keeps the same margin?

Khoi Truong, L’Oréal Canada

At the recent ACA Forum, however, we got to hear the other side of the story. Marketers from Mondelez, Unilever and L’Oréal sat on a panel devoted to viewability and fraud, responding to questions from Index Exchange’s Andrew Casale.

Their responses were mixed. The way Mondelez director of media and agency partnerships Kristi Karens sees it, guaranteed viewability is a guarantee of higher quality, and she’s willing to pay more for higher quality, so long as publishers can prove it. “The spirit of ‘you pay more for quality,’ I don’t have a problem with,” she said.

But there are limits to that, she said. She’s not willing to accept a publisher doubling their CPMs on viewable impressions to cover their losses, because at least part of the responsibility falls on the publisher to improve their viewability rates and make a larger percentage of their inventory monetizeable under the new viewable impression standard.

Terry Chang, group director at Starcom MediaVest, which handles Mondelez’s programmatic media buying, echoed the point. He pointed out the severe CPM pressure that media agencies are already under. If publishers tried to raise prices on viewabile inventory, those agencies will likely go elsewhere in what is already an oversupplied buyers’ market.

“To me, yes it is worth more,” he said. “[But] at the agency, we still want to deliver a CPM that’s close to global standards as well as local marketplace lows.”

ComScore Canada president Brent Bernie (who also sat on the panel) said that publishers are starting to see the sense in this approach. In the past, he said, they have tried to maximize their revenue by increasing their supply. But much like printing money to stimulate economic growth, ballooning the supply in the ecosystem did little to increase the value of online inventory.

In fact it did the opposite. Realizing their error, publishers are now looking to increase the value of the inventory they have, rather than just create more of it, Bernie said.

Khoi Truong, L’Orèal Canada director of media and data optimization, had the most blunt response to the question of whether viewable impressions should cost more. “Why should I pay more when everybody keeps the same margin? It’s not only my fault,” he said. “Everybody has to be part of it. I think there is a way to negotiate how we can set a new standard. Yes, people will put less money in their pockets, but this is the reality.”

He said that L’Oréal has just been starting to screen out fraudulent and non-viewable inventory to analyze how much it is actually paying for online media on a “cost-per-real-human” basis. The number is already very high, he said, and if the cost of viewable impressions goes up, it will remain high, which doesn’t increase value for the marketer.

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