Quality is a measurement with multiple dimensions. When asked to assess the quality of a car, for instance, some will look at performance and the power of the engine, while others may focus on specification and the additional features available. Then there will be those whose main concerns are reliability and serviceability—how likely is the vehicle to break down and can it be fixed if it does?
So which of these dimensions is the most crucial to verify quality? Of course, the answer is they’re all equally important—alongside others such as durability, aesthetics, and conformance with regulations. Each element complements the others and measuring them in isolation won’t help drivers decide which car to buy.
The same can be said of digital media. Every few months, a new dimension of media quality hits the headlines and becomes the metric by which placement quality is evaluated, but, ultimately, media quality can’t be defined by a single measurement. While perspectives change, the core themes remain and the interconnections between them develop and refine themselves.
So what are the core dimensions of media that must be considered and how do they interrelate to provide a holistic evaluation of placement quality?
In the verification space, there are numerous elements that should play a role in media planning, buying, and optimisation processes.
- Viewability—the opportunity for an ad to be seen by consumers—is a high-profile dimension.
- So too is Fraud—avoiding the deliberate action of serving ads that won’t be seen by humans.
- But equally important is Brand Safety—which ensures the ad environment, the content adjacent to the ad, aligns with the brand image.
- Ad Clutter—which limits ad density on a page and improves share of voice.
- And Ad Collision—which prevents ads from the same campaign being served on the same page, diluting impact and wasting spend.
Add on the professionalism with which a web page was built into the mix, and a true picture of media quality finally begins to emerge.
New synergies and relationships are continually formed between these various dimensions, so placing too much emphasis on one or another can negatively impact campaign performance. There is an ongoing misconception that a brand-safe, premium environment is more likely to be highly viewable and free from fraud. In fact, by solely focusing on viewability, it can increase the incidence of pockets of fraud, as sophisticated bots cloaked in human guises imitate highly viewable inventory.
Connections can be drawn between all dimensions of media quality—for instance, the professionalism with which a page is built may well be a signal of the likelihood of the page being fraudulent—so each dimension must be considered and included in the verification equation to avoid a potentially costly leap of faith.
As an example, there may be value in using ad clutter and collision data in regression models that explain the varying impact of viewability. What is more useful to an advertiser? Three ad opportunities evenly spaced within content, each with a definite explicit share of voice, or three placements strategically placed above the fold where the brand must compete for impact and recall, and where creative messages that have spent months in conception and instrumentation clash, diluting their impact? There is no simple answer to evaluating media quality—there’s too much data for that—but while the industry continues to aggregate and assimilate data metrics in silos, the answer will remain elusive.
In recent months, there have been some positive industry moves towards an all-encompassing understanding of media quality. These include attribution firms setting development and integration courses, which remove non-viewable and fraudulent impressions from conversion paths and provide optimisation recommendations, as well as trading desks where overall quality holistic metrics feature in daily dashboards and the relationship between viewability and brand safety is not a given.
Just as engine size alone shouldn’t be used to choose a car, no single dimension of media quality should be used to inform ad buying; it is essential to consider the inter-dependencies of each element and the impact they have on one another. When evaluating media, the industry must look beyond individual data tables and verification metrics to ensure a holistic, all-encompassing approach.