Battling bots and blockers: Overcoming obstacles to digital video advertising

Thought Leadership presented by Comcast Spotlight.

Nearly 75% of all internet traffic will be video by 2017, according to an estimate by Borrell Associates. If digital video isn’t part of your marketing plan already, it’s time to get on board. But taking into account the many unknown factors of the digital space, you have to carefully manage where your videos are being seen – and, more importantly, who is really seeing them.

The world of digital video can be tricky to navigate, for a first-time digital buyer or an experienced agency. In the early days of internet advertising, measuring success was all about clicks. You serve your ad to X number of people, and hope that the video’s creative was impactful enough to make them click through to a website in order to learn more or make a purchase.

Due to many obstacles that exist in the digital space, click-through rates (CTR) are no longer an accurate measurement of a digital campaign’s success, whether it’s display or video. To understand these threats, react accordingly and choose an effective measurement of success, you must first understand what you’re up against.

Bot fraud and ad blockers

Bot fraud comes in many forms, but ultimately occurs when there is non-human activity with an ad that results in the same impression, click or engagement that an advertiser would get from a real person. Online fraudsters are able to profit by creating these bots to fool advertisers, publishers and ad exchanges into thinking they are seeing real human engagement with their digital ads. But in reality, they are paying to put their ads where few human eyes will see them, let alone click. Advertisers can combat these fake views and clicks in a few different ways:

  • Partner with a third-party company to code, measure, and in some instances, even ensure ads are being served to real people. While there’s a cost associated with this, it’s better to pay for quality – and reach real people – than throw your ad dollars out the window.
  • Serve ads in user-authenticated placements. When you stream a TV show, for example, usually you need to enter some kind of subscriber information and password (cable provider, Netflix account, etc.). Bots cannot generate this info to prove they are real subscribers; therefore they don’t have access to this video inventory.

An ad blocker is free software that a user can download to prevent ads from appearing on a website, simply so they don’t have to see them. To combat ad blockers, advertisers need to pay close attention to their online video placement. For example, if an advertiser is buying inventory that includes a video that automatically plays when a website loads, an ad blocker will prevent the user from seeing it. In contrast, if the advertiser chooses in-stream video placement (commercials that appear before, during and after a video), most ad blockers cannot skip the ad. These types of videos are user-initiated, which means a person is actively choosing to watch a news clip or sports highlight – and most blockers don’t have the ability to prevent the ad from appearing within the stream of that video.

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that human viewability is everything. There is obviously more value to serving a video ad to a real human rather than a bot. But there is also much more value in serving a video ad in-stream, before a user-initiated video – as opposed to a video that auto-plays below the fold. Make sure your advertising vendors are addressing these concerns – and strive for “100% viewability” to ensure your commercial is being watched all the way through. Follow these tactics, and you’ll be well on your way to overcoming some of today’s most pervasive obstacles to digital video advertising.

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