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How Publishers Can Use Probability to Overcome the Uncertainty of Programmatic Buying

11 July 2014:  Programmatic advertising is a natural evolution of the digital landscape. On the one hand, buyers need to target at scale, while on the other, sellers want to monetise remnant inventory. Technology is the enabler. We saw it happening with the financial markets years ago. Now, we are living through its growing pains and learning curve in digital advertising.
Buying ads programmatically is like buying wholesale inventory - there is no guarantee for each item to be perfect. You can inspect a sample and count on it being a good representation of the quality of inventory. As long as the average outcome (in this case, percentage of defective items) is predictable, you can determine the price of the wholesale purchase that is sensible to you.
Ad viewability is one of the hot-button topics that advertisers and publishers are focused on these days. Ads that are not in view don't have the opportunity to influence the users' decision to buy a product or make them remember a brand. Technology allows buyers to bid on a specific likelihood of in-view impressions. But can anyone guarantee viewability of any ad before it is served?
Viewability depends on the user's interaction with content and can only be measured after the ad is served. If the specific user never scrolls down a site, none of the below the fold ads will be in-view. But if the user does scroll down and spends time below the fold, the outcome will be very different. Programmatic buying by definition is about bidding on inventory before the ad is actually delivered and rendered, and therefore there is no way of knowing if an ad will be in view for sure. It’s all about knowing the probability and ability to leverage this knowledge.
Don't be fooled by guaranteed viewable impressions. It's an illusion - a dangerous one. Your desire to accurately predict the future is tempting, but the only way to do it is by building a time machine.
Scale allows us to use probability to our advantage. With a large sample of impressions on a placement, we are able to predict viewability and help to price the bid accordingly by discounting the rate of unviewable impressions. Just like buying wholesale, your overall ad buys allow you to achieve the results that you need at scale. Niall Hogan UK Managing Director Integral Ad Science