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The funnel to viewable impressions - why render status is so important

Written by Hendrik Wistuba, Marketing/PR Manager

“Begin-to-render” as a market-wide standard

As data rates and computing power started to rapidly increase, it became possible to compare cookies, programmatically purchase digital ad space and even track user behaviour in real-time. Due to all the challenges that programmatic advertising and data management strategies pose in a privacy-concerned world, the fundamental process of delivering digital ads often gets overlooked. In this article, we’d like to illuminate a crucial step of this process and how it influences advertising measurement and verification – the render status:

The creative must be fully downloaded on the consumer’s device and must have begun to display before it can be counted as an impression. Merely triggering performance measurement scripts doesn’t achieve any advertising effect.

While there is virtually no delay on many modern systems who are using decently fast internet connections, it can have a drastic impact on the perceived success of programmatic campaigns. In late 2017, renowned industry bodies aligned their understanding of an ad impression as a numerable event. The task force led by the MRC and the IAB agreed that only responses to ad requests which have transmitted the creative to the client and began to render may be recorded as ad impression events. This definition is further limited by the requirement to filter for invalid traffic, leaving us with a net impression count.

The render status of impressions forms a basis for reporting

Whereas the implications for viewability and time-on-screen measurements seem self-explanatory, the effect a measurement error can carry forward to complex KPIs is more obscured. Figure 1 shows the fundamental nature of the begin-to-render criterion for most digital ad verification solutions. 

Figure 1 – Simplified funnel representation of reporting viewable ad impressions

 

The total amount of tracked ad requests needs to be filtered for events that didn’t qualify as an impression. Then, any activity of potential bots and crawlers has to be excluded from the total number of impressions. Only thereafter, the ad-fraud-free viewability rate can be determined. 

Even though the number of tracked ads is the most fundamental measurement to report not all of these ad requests are included in further analyses. First, the definition of a valid ad impression event, i.e. the render status, is applied.

The amount of rendered impressions as illustrated in point (2) of the above illustration forms the actual basis for viewability measurements according to MRC guidelines.

Meaning the time-on-screen is only recorded as soon as this criterion is fulfilled. If the definition is implemented incorrectly, e.g. by already collecting data as soon as an ad request is being tracked, all subsequent reports would display excessive values.

This is also true for any measurement or data processing error occurring afterwards. The viewability rate of an ad, campaign or placement can only provide valuable guidelines, if the total number of viewed impressions has been determined accurately. Adherence to the same measurement criteria by all accredited verification providers is a prerequisite for holistic reporting and comparability. This is immensely important to us as trust and transparency are prerequisites for fair advertising practices. Our solutions have supported and are supporting this definition from the outset. We offer full insight into each of these figures and their composition by default regardless of how the ad was booked. Future changes to this definition are followed closely.

The effect of render status on audience targeting KPIs

Impression-based distributions such as device usage, reasons for non-viewability and target group matches could become distorted by inaccurate measurements as well.

Especially the latter is heavily influenced by flawed impression recording. While the ins and outs of audience measurements demand their own article, a few words on the interpretation of target group checks might help:

In order to be cost-effective, targeted campaigns need to reach more people than widely spread advertisement would. If market research shows that 15% of internet users belong to a certain audience, targeted placements achieving a 30% target group match outperform non-specific campaigns by 100%. In this example, the conscious effort of targeting a certain demographic doubled the amount of viewers in the desired audience across all impressions. The results of target group checks depend on the desired audience and the creative type but also on the way these ad events are measured and processed as shown. Hence, advertisers should assure themselves that the render status of targeted placements is tracked correctly. Ideally the audience verification is combined with a script-based viewability measurement solution.

If you’re interested in setting up audience and viewability verification or you’d like to know how you can manage both technologies with one solution, please contact us by clicking the link below.

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