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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Demand for media quality is a challenge and an opportunity

October 1, 2018 | By Yvette Lapompe, Senior Product Manager, Publisher Verification—Integral Ad Science @integralads

It’s hard to deny that the landscape for digital publishers is a challenging one. Pools of advertising revenue are shrinking, competition is at an all-time high. A variety of strategic pivots — from video to subscription models revenue models — have yet to fully mature. Furthermore, traditional advertising models are strained by a buy-side that increasingly demands that publishers hit ever more stringent media quality targets. In short, it’s an environment where every penny counts, and where it’s essential that premium publishers maximize the value of their inventory. For many, that means employing tools that can curb factors like ad fraud and low viewability, which can erode the value of premium content.


Ad fraud is often positioned as a buy-side problem. Fraudsters use a variety of techniques, from bot networks that generate artificial traffic, to domain spoofing tactics that allow them to impersonate premium publishers. For buyers, it means stolen ad dollars that never impact consumers, and for publishers, it means an obvious loss of revenue. However, ad fraud has a more insidious impact on digital publishers. Not only does it erode the revenue bottom line, but it also erodes trust. The loss of trust damages long-term relationships and reshapes the way major advertisers apportion their budgets over time.

Recently, a digital publisher serving the technology, healthcare, and financial sector experienced an unexpected spike in bot activity. The spike prompted advertisers to question the validity of the publisher’s inventory and could have led to a breakdown in trust and, ultimately, a loss of significant revenue. To combat this, the publisher in question employed a fraud optimization solution to isolate and sequester invalid traffic at the ad server level, reducing fraud across their inventory by over 78%.


Like fraud, non-viewable inventory has an unparalleled ability to erode value for publishers. Pressure from major brand advertisers — including highly publicized ultimatums from Unilever CMO Keith Weed, P&G’s Marc Pritchard, and media buying giant Group M — have moved viewable inventory from a nice-to-have in digital advertising inventory, to table stakes for many of the worlds top advertisers. Publishers who find themselves unable to deliver highly viewable inventory may find themselves missing out on significant revenue.

However, demand for highly viewable inventory also presents an opportunity. Publishers who can meet higher viewability standards stand to earn a premium on that inventory given high demand. Recognizing this potential for untapped revenue, a pop culture publisher recently sought to increase viewability across its inventory. Using a publisher optimization solution, the publisher was able to substantially raise viewability from a baseline of 53% to 77.3%, easily hitting a 70% viewability threshold on all of its inventory, opening the door to premium advertiser dollars.

Moving forward

As publishers are increasingly challenged to adapt their business model to a changing ecosystem, it’s easy to feel that rising media quality standards are just one more pressure point. In reality, with the right tools in hand, growing advertiser demand for improved media quality presents an untapped opportunity. Publishers who are able to meet demand can grow trust and more importantly, tap unrealized revenue on high-quality inventory to support their premium content.

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