As Media Rating Council CEO George Ivie told AdExchanger in a previous interview, “Viewable inventory is scarce relative to sourced inventory. Publishers used to monetize everywhere on a web page. Now you can only monetize ads that have the opportunity to be seen in the viewable space of a browser, and the fact is that there is less of that.”
It’s a situation that leads to pricing debates between publishers and their advertisers, who don’t want to shell out more for something they see as their due. Publishers, on the other hand, still need to tend to the bottom line with less inventory on the shelf.
Chartbeat’s solution, geared towards ad ops rather than editors, is a tool it’s calling “engaged ad refresh.” On most websites, a page load triggers an ad load, and whether a person spends one second or a minute and a half checking out the content, that ad counts as a single impression. It’s not a scenario that rewards publishers for creating engaging content – quite the opposite.
With engaged ad refresh, publishers can set timing thresholds based on advertiser KPIs and automatically refresh ads that appear next to more engaging content. Ads are only refreshed if they’ve been seen for a guaranteed amount of time.
For example, if an advertiser sets the threshold at 15 seconds, a person remains on that page for 60 seconds, and Chartbeat determines that there’s a live human at the other end of the screen – the company is MRC-accredited for its engaged time metric – the ad slot will automatically refresh four times.
Each ad unit also has its own counter. If a user visits a page, scrolls right past the banner and then spends time engaging with something lower down, only the in-view ad, say the right-rail unit, will automatically refresh but the banner won’t.
The result is an increase in the amount of viewable inventory on a publisher’s site, said Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s chief data scientist.
“Right now, the standard home page refresh unit used by most sites triggers an entire page to refresh, which means the ad in the view port reloads, but so do all the other ads that aren’t in view,” Schwartz said. “People can generate a lot of inventory that way, but it ends up being low-quality. People have been refreshing for a long time, but not in an intelligent way.”
The tool also helps give underperforming campaigns a little boost. If a particular campaign isn’t doing well, Chartbeat will recommend that a publisher target those ads to show up preferentially in ad slots that have been identified as engaging by the refresh tool.
“On the one hand, this is creating more inventory, but it’s also making the most impactful use of that inventory to help the campaigns that need it most,” Schwartz said.
The PGA Tour, one of Chartbeat’s clients, has seen a more than 10% increase in the amount of viewable inventory it’s able to sell and serve against.
"It helps us move from the blunt instrument of full-page ad refreshes to the precision of refreshing ads only in-view, and only based on users' exposure to creative," said Mike McLeod, senior manager of advertising technology and products at PGA Tour Digital.
Chartbeat works with about 50,000 media sites, including large publishers like The Wall Street Journal, Time.com and the Financial Times. Several clients, including FT, have started trading on attention metrics.
As Jon Slade, FT’s commercial director of global digital advertising and insights, told AdExchanger in October when the publisher first made the move to start pricing its display advertising based on time spent, “There’s a clear and intuitive line of logic here: Time matters. And the positive response we’re getting from advertisers would support that.”