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It’s time to start thinking about inventory quality data as an asset, rather than a liability

December 14, 2015 | By Dave Marquard, Director of Product, Publisher Solutions—Integral Ad Science

For years, viewability and ad fraud have created fear that incorporating them into the workflow would diminish inventory value and make certain impressions impossible to sell. While many have begrudgingly accepted that media quality monitoring has become table stakes for doing business with most reputable advertisers, few are using their data to its fullest potential.

After all, in virtually every other industry, inventory quality is a valuable tool for attracting customers, setting prices, and maximizing revenues. Imagine going to the jewelry store and being told that there was not only one price for every ring in the display case, but that you had just as much chance of buying a rhinestone as a diamond. Instead of the haphazard distribution model of our maturing online ecosystem, retailers optimize their yields by charging a premium for rarer diamonds and generating additional sales from people willing to accept a rhinestone at a lower price.

There’s no reason publishers can’t use similar tactics to improve the yield of their inventory using the information they have about viewability, ad fraud, and brand safety. With that in mind, here are four steps you can take to put your media quality data to work and grow your business.

1. Understand your inventory performance.

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your inventory, the better off you’ll be when it comes to improving its quality and setting prices for your customers.

The best way to get the lay of the land is take a good, hard look at the data and start figuring out how different types of inventory perform at a granular level. For instance, you might find that ads on your women’s lifestyle content are most likely to be in view, or that an automotive section of your site has high fraud.

Instead of shrinking away from media quality data, use this analysis to tout your highest-performing impressions to prospective buyers and charge a premium to those who are interested in purchasing them.

2. Optimize your site design for high-quality media.

Once you have an idea of which parts of your inventory are performing best on your site, you can start working to increase the number of high-quality impressions you have to sell.

In our recent Q3 media quality report, we found that skyscrapers and half-page ads are the most likely to be viewable, so it might make sense to redesign your site in a way that allows you to run more of them. But that really depends on what you find when you dg into your inventory performance. Run A/B tests, experiment, test, and measure.

Of course, you’ll also want to keep a close eye on how different ad combinations affect your user experience. The easiest way to guarantee viewability is make all of your ads sticky and follow your users as they scroll. But great viewability won’t do much to help your bottom line if you’ve created a page where the ads are so intrusive that people stop coming to your site.

3. Sort your impressions into buckets based on media quality.

After maximizing the amount of viewable, fraud-free, and brand-safe inventory you have at your disposal, it’s time to start establishing price tiers based on quality. We recommend sorting all of your impressions into three buckets, one each for high-quality, medium-quality, and low-quality inventory.

While everyone will initially want to buy from your top bucket, supply and demand will kick in: You’ll be able to charge prices high enough that some buyers are willing to settle for medium- or low-quality impressions. Indeed, retailers across the country will make plenty of money selling inexpensive and moderately priced inventory of all kinds this holiday season, and publishers should do the same.

4. Use your information to automate your transaction and trafficking processes.

If you’re really advanced, you can use your inventory quality data to forecast how many viewable impressions you’ll have available at any given time. This will allow you to automate your prices based on your expected scarcity, as well as to make sure you don’t over-buffer campaigns by giving away too many impressions in order to meet a viewability quota. An accurate forecast also gives you the confidence you need to make guarantees to customers based on viewability, fraud, or brand safety.

As technology develops, we expect that publishers will ultimately be able to traffic campaigns toward their highest or lowest viewability inventory directly on the ad server. Those that take steps today to establish best practices for leveraging these kinds of data will enjoy huge advantages over their less advanced rivals as buyers continue to demand better and better digital advertising experiences for their clients.

Indeed, if we’ve learned one thing watching the rise of viewability these past few years, it’s that media quality metrics are here to stay. Now, it’s up to you to make the most of them.

Dave Marquard is currently Director of Product Management, Publisher Solutions at Integral Ad Science. For the past 15 years he has held leadership roles in product management, engineering, and marketing at internet technology and enterprise software firms such as Google, IBM, and Lombardi Software.

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