Internet advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2017 crossed $19 billion, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau. The staggering number isn’t too much of a surprise, though. Digital advertising revenues have been registering double-digit growth year-on-year for five years in a row now. 

While ad spending has increased drastically, returns on ad spending have not followed suit. In fact, wastage of ad dollars by way of bots has seen an upward trend in the past two to three years. Fake online accounts, coupled with malware, resulted in wastage of ad dollars to the tune of $8.2 billion in 2015.

Given the rise of bots, it is imperative that ads engage with real people online to maximize the ROI of a campaign. Brands can achieve that with the help of what we call the ‘ad quality matrix’. There are five key elements to the ad quality matrix, all connected to one another.

1. Get ads in front of real human beings

It’s not just bots that advertisers need to be wary of. The media supply chain has bad players that you also need to know about. While an industry-led initiative is the need of the hour, here are some steps that can help get ads in front of actual human beings:

  • Get ad-fraud software that detects suspicious activity. Pixalate, MOAT and DoubleVerify are well-known names in the field.
  • Focus on cost-per-action (CPA) rather than cost-per-impression (CPM) when measuring the effectiveness of a campaign. For instance, “first orders” are a much better metric to track than merely ads served or click throughs, since they are susceptible to ad fraud. If the CPA is too low, it is time to switch to a media buyer that delivers desired results. It will be especially convenient if the switching process can happen automatically via an engine during the ad optimization process.

2. Focus on engagement

The internet advertising industry has still not agreed upon a common definition of engagement. According to IAB, engagement in internet advertising can be cognitive, physical, and emotional. How to measure consumer engagement?

Physical engagement is the easiest to measure. Clicks, signups, purchases, and first actions such as shares and first posts are common examples of physical engagement. The length of time a video is watched, whether it was skipped, or the amount of time that is spent on a page are examples of cognitive engagement.

Measuring emotional engagement is still some way off. However, as smartphones become ubiquitous, it may be possible to measure emotional engagement by way of heart rate and blood pressure.

3. Perception matters

Understanding a brand’s perception is crucial, since it allows for a better digital marketing strategy. For instance, if a mobile app is perceived by most as slow, the company should convince the users that the problem has been rectified in the next roll out.

Perception also plays a role in how often users engage with your ad. People are more likely to engage with ads by brands that they trust. How to measure brand perception? Reviews in app stores are the easiest way to get to know what people are saying about your mobile app. Listening to social media conversations also helps. Keep an eye out for mentions of your mobile app on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

4. Measure reach

Here, ‘reach’ is defined as the number of unique users reached through a campaign. This takes into account new people that you might not have been able to reach in previous campaigns. Unique device identifiers (UDIDs) can be a good starting point to gauge if your message is reaching your target audience in the mobile world.

5. Measure viewability

Viewability of an ad directly affects how often real people engage with a brand. The definition of viewability can vary. For instance, for a static banner ad, at least half of your ad content should be visible for at least three seconds in order to count as viewable. Viewability has become an important metric in the programmatic world, since it helps with more accurate ROI calculations of a campaign. Your ad might not be viewable due to caching or ad stacking, or simply because it is below the fold. According to IAB, four key elements affect the viewability of an ad:

  • Content. The content of an ad has to be engaging enough for a user to interact with it. This includes images, videos and written copy. Personalisation of ads goes a long way in optimising this key element. Intrusive or inconsistent creatives can negatively affect the viewability of an ad campaign.
  • Website or app. The navigability of an online portal, be it a website or a mobile app, also plays a crucial role in determining viewability score of an ad campaign. For instance, too many pop-ups or automatic redirects can kill the viewability of an ad campaign. Similarly, contextually irrelevant ads can not only kill viewability but hamper a brand’s value too.
  • Latency. The faster an ad renders, the more chance it has of keeping users interested. Period. Latency is closely related to website design. Using compressed images and videos help, for instance.
  • Ad strategy. This encompasses where ads are displayed on a website, what kind of ads are displayed, and in what sizes. Here again, the goal is to improve ad render times in order to improve ad viewability.

In order to measure viewability, it’s also important to take into account strengths and weaknesses of different players across desktop and mobile devices.