SteelHouse unveils a novel concept: Telling advertisers for free if their ads can be seen
The company says this is the first free viewability report by an ad platform.
Ad platform SteelHouse is out with a unique offer that, in any industry other than digital advertising, would be laughable.
It is now telling clients for free if what they’ve bought has actually been delivered.
Or, in the language of digital advertising: SteelHouse is now offering free reports on viewability for all of its advertising clients.
The company says that, to its knowledge, this is the first such offer by an ad platform, as requiring the use of outside verification services is common.
“If you buy ads,” SteelHouse CEO and President Mark Douglas told me, “you shouldn’t pay extra to know if it’s seen.”
Previously, that’s what SteelHouse required, since brands had to use an outside service to determine if their ads met the now-common viewability standard of the Media Rating Council and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
Douglas said that one driver for the new policy was the increasingly popular header bidding. It offers a way for publishers to better control the auctions for their inventory, and it’s designed to raise the ad rates they receive.
“If you’re going to double the cost to serve an ad, you should get double the transparency,” Douglas said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
“It should be available to everyone, and it should be available for free.”
SteelHouse offers an ad suite for brands to manage digital advertising by themselves, instead of relying on agencies and buyers. It includes audience and campaign management, creative tools and analytics, delivering static ads, video ads and native ads to websites, mobile web, apps and social media.
But, it should be noted, SteelHouse’s viewability report is primarily oriented around scrollability.
If a user goes to the website of The New York Times, for instance, a web page loads that lives above and below the bottom of the screen. A user has to scroll down “below the fold” (to use the newspaper term) to see the rest of the page.
Ads at the top of the page are seen as soon as the site is loaded, while ads below the fold are not seen unless the user scrolls. But, Douglas noted, the advertiser pays for the ad display at page bottom when the page is loaded, even if the user doesn’t scroll down to see it.
The SteelHouse viewability metric, then, primarily measures the proportion of served ads seen at top of a page, and the proportion for which users have scrolled down to see.
Douglas says 65 to 80 percent of the ads served by his company’s platform are viewable, according to this definition. Advertisers still pay for 100 percent, but the metric is used by SteelHouse as a guide to improvement of ad placement.
Of course, the viewability issue is typically also affected by other problems, like bots that pretend to be users or websites that pile ads-on-ads just to collect impressions.
Douglas told me that these factors are handled separately. Website inventory is continually being pruned and upgraded, he said, so very few fraudulent sites are receiving SteelHouse-delivered ads.
And bots are being filtered out by such techniques as an overlaid message asking if the user really wants to go the ad’s destination if that ad has been clicked on more than three times in 30 days by the same user. Bots won’t respond to the question.
Sometimes, the viewable issue might be that the ad simply doesn’t load fast enough to accommodate the viewer’s patience. But Douglas says that’s a function of the ad server and SteelHouse delivers quickly.
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