Why MoPub is taking a stance on accurate impression tracking

Monday, December 03, 2018
By: Jeff Carlson

Tracking impressions across creative formats accurately and consistently is very important for advertisers. It enables them to optimize their budgets and measure the success of their campaigns more effectively. However, not all mobile monetization platforms or ad serving tools today measure in-app impressions consistently across formats, which in some cases creates reporting and billing discrepancies in the mobile industry.

One of the culprits behind this issue is how mobile usually follows in the footsteps of desktop. For example, in the past, mobile applications rendered all display ads on screen when a user opened them. However, due to mobile connectivity issues coupled with people’s multitasking behavior on smart devices, publishers started focusing on decreasing app load times to improve user experience. So they pre-cached content and ads to enable applications to load faster, and as a result, some banner ads never rendered on screen.

As the practice of pre-caching grew, advertisers were getting billed for a number of non-rendering ad impressions, making it clear that the industry needed to separate out loading/pre-caching from visible events. In October 2017, The Media Rating Council (MRC) released an updated version of the Mobile Application Advertising Measurement Guidelines, in which it stated that mobile ad impressions should only be counted once they begin to render and are at least partially visible to a user. It’s important to highlight here that this measurement is meant to be used as a standard for tracking rendered impressions for billing purposes. This is not meant to be used as a viewability metric, as advertisers use different standards when considering when an ad is counted as a viewable impression.

At MoPub, we were one of the early welcoming adopters of this change. Earlier this year, we decided to separate loading from visible events and updated our tracking policies to only bill for an impression when the ad renders at least one pixel of the ad visible on screen for more than zero seconds. We also standardized this tracking approach across all creative formats, creating consistency between banners, interstitials, native, and video.

This approach has a number of benefits. It enables advertisers to more accurately and consistently track impressions and only pay for those that are rendered and have the potential to be viewed by users. As a result, advertisers can better optimize their budgets on what matters most and gain more trust in the quality of the mobile ecosystem. Furthermore, publishers get more flexibility and controls to improve user experience without impacting impression tracking. Publishers are now able to pre-cache content as well as ads to ensure that their apps load faster without worrying that it might be perceived as a fraudulent activity. This means that users will enjoy spending more of their time in mobile apps, and more likely stay engaged longer, which also benefits advertisers.

When MoPub released this new tracking policy, we saw the number of billed ads decrease since we were only counting impressions that rendered on screen. For example, 320x50 impressions tracked on MoPub’s exchange decreased by 23% during one of our tests in April 2018. We were originally concerned that publisher revenue would go down as a result. However, that wasn’t the case. Revenue was not impacted because CPMs for those valuable impressions went up. We also saw click through rates and viewability rates increase as well.  

One of the challenges remaining in the ecosystem today is that a number of mobile measurement and ad serving tools are still counting certain creative impressions once the ad is loaded instead of once it renders on the screen. We decided to change our tracking policies to be in line with the MRC standard because we believe it enhances mobile quality and minimizes reporting discrepancies between app publishers and advertisers, which ultimately benefits the entire industry. We call on others across the industry to join us in providing an accurate, consistent, and fair metric.

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