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Study exposes potential online ad issues

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Reston-based comScore Inc. on Monday released details of an online advertising study of 12 major advertisers that exposed some potential problems.

The study found that, for example, a large number of ad impressions are not delivered according to plan and that the quality of ad delivery can vary greatly based on a variety of factors, including site, placement, and creative and targeting strategy.

The vCE Charter Study evaluated ad delivery based on a several key dimensions, including whether or not the ads ever had the opportunity to be seen, targeted the right audience, were in the right geography, were in brand-safe environments and were absent of fraud.

“This is the first study to bring 12 leading marketers together to holistically understand how online advertising is delivered, allowing us to begin to diagnose sources of waste and identify solutions for improving the value that all players in the ecosystem can extract from the digital advertising market,” Linda Abraham, comScore’s co-founder and CMO, said in a statement. “Until now, neither side of the industry has had a clear picture of ad delivery, resulting in a lack of confidence in digital’s ability to deliver on its promise as the most measurable advertising medium. The insights from the charter study represent a critical first step to improving the efficiency, efficacy and ultimately the economics of online advertising for all participants.”

The study, which took place in December, involved ad campaigns for Allstate, Chrysler, Discover, E-Trade, Ford, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kimberly Clark, Kraft and Sprint.

The study showed that 31 percent of ads were not “in-view,” meaning they never had an opportunity to be seen. There was also great variation across sites where the campaigns ran, with in-view rates ranging from 7 to 100 percent on a given site.

Campaigns that had very basic demographic objectives performed well in hitting those targets. For example, those attempting to reach people in a broad age range were successful in 70 percent of their impressions. However, as demographic variables were added (such as income or gender), the accuracy rates of the ad delivery declined.

Nonetheless, the results also showed that 37 percent of all impressions were delivered to audiences with profiles that were relevant to the brand.

Of the campaigns analyzed, 72 percent had at least some impressions that were delivered adjacent to objectionable content. This did not result to a large number of impressions on an absolute basis (141,000 impressions across 980 domains), but 92,000 people were exposed to these impressions.

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