Viewability, Measurement, And Attribution: Opportunities In The New Digital Frontier

By Aqilliz  

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At Aqilliz, we’ve been fervent believers in the power of digital and the undeniable impact that new technologies — compounded by a powerful shift in consumer preferences and behaviours — have had on the advertising industry at large. This impact is reflected in the numbers: According to PwC and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s latest report, the industry saw staggering growth last year, jumping from US$50 billion in a single year. The rise of new innovations, across Web3 and the metaverse to advancements in AR/VR and gaming, have led to new channels for engagement that brands can capitalise on as they continue to strengthen their relationships with fans and customers alike.

That being said, these very same innovations can lead to striking challenges that advertisers and marketers will need to overcome in the coming years as the customer journey intensifies in complexity. No longer a matter of physical versus digital, the growing sophistication of the digital landscape, too, will result in its own unique forms of fragmentation that the industry needs to address to retain its competitive edge as customers engage online. What challenges and opportunities lie ahead as we head into the next digital frontier?

Learning from in-game environments

No longer limited to billboard ads and TV commercials, an industry that’s witnessed an exciting pivot in its advertising strategy is fashion. Of course, retail spaces are still a valued part of the industry’s brand awareness strategy, capitalising on swathes of consumers engaging in a lazy afternoon of window-shopping. The coronavirus pandemic, however, quickly put a stop to that, resulting in a marked pivot to digital — looking to influencer activations, social media, and now the metaverse.

In late March, virtual world platform Decentraland hosted its very first Metaverse Fashion Week, featuring a slew of well-known names across Italian fashion houses Etro and Dolce and Gabbana, as well as American premium fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger. Prior to that, we saw a plethora of brand activations across Decentraland and other virtual world platforms such as Roblox and The Sandbox, pointing to the metaverse’s growing appeal. In the long-term, how should we quantify these experiences, in terms of advertising value and how should they be measured in terms of impressions?

For one, let’s consider a more formalised style of advertising in the metaverse, such as a DOOH ad outside of a bus stop on the side of a road in Decentraland. It’s likely that these ads won’t look too dissimilar from what we see today in terms of in-game advertising which sees the programmatic insertion of ads into game environments. In fact, companies today have long recognised the value of in-game advertising, with 93 percent of all media buyers looking to run in-game ads by 2025. Critical lessons can be learned from the space in terms of how they’ve managed to address their own viewability challenges, with tools that can now determine the difference between complete versus partial views of an ad, allowing advertisers to accurately determine the effectiveness of each inventory source.

In turn, AdTech technologies in the metaverse will need to address this viewability conundrum in a similar way, while accounting for the “freedom of movement” that one finds in virtual worlds which is inherently different from an in-game environment — be it in terms of speed, duration of engagement, or how focused a user’s interaction with a given ad is. Meta, for one, is seemingly already anticipating this, based on patents that it’s filed to strengthen its VR offering. Meta global affairs chief Nick Clegg recently mentioned in an interview that metaverse eye-tracking data could help advertisers better "understand whether people engage with an advertisement or not."

Addressing the (digital) identity conundrum

That being said, existing challenges remain when it comes to the issue of measurement and attribution. Today, the industry is still grappling with the realities of a post-cookie world and so far, no single, holistic solution has emerged to address Google’s upcoming ban on third-party cookies. From Google’s own solutions from its Privacy Sandbox to innovations in universal IDs to first-party data plays, there is a lack of industry consensus on how exactly we’ll move forward, but one thing’s for certain: A more privacy-centric internet is on the horizon.

At Aqilliz, we’ve long pioneered an approach in favour of decentralised data collaboration which simply feels more and more befitting amid the unexpected popularity of Web3, the metaverse, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) throughout the past year. Brands can host their own nodes on our hybrid protocol while benefitting from encryption that can mask data points in such a way that prevents reverse engineering, ensuring that they’re compliant with even the most stringent data protection requirements. Further strengthened with our use of federated learning, the resulting audience profiles can then be activated to inform consumer engagement strategies — be it targeting or personalisation — all while being based on ethically-obtained first-party user data by the brand itself.

Other innovations that merit a closer look are the use of NFTs for decentralised digital identities. Take decentralised domain provider Unstoppable Domains’ NFT domain offering which offers an equally convenient, privacy-centric alternative to the single-sign-on (SSO) systems that users are familiar with from tech giants such as Facebook and Google. Rather than relying on your email address, an NFT domain is used instead and the beauty is that it’s 100 percent owned by the user, is more secure, and ensures that your data isn’t “mined and sold”.

Simultaneously, with blockchain, brands can benefit from a more analytics-led approach to improved campaign performance across both digital and traditional channels. The use of smart contracts, for example, can help to systematically filter impressions based upon specific conditions that they need to meet, whether in terms of fraud, brand safety, or even how an ad was viewed and for how long. With these terms encoded within the contract itself, blockchain can help to formalise cross-media measurement standards for the Web3 era, giving brands, publishers, and marketers the opportunity to set metrics and automate their use across multiple virtual worlds.

A decentralised reality

As the advertising industry continues to respond to growing trends that set to shape the reality of brand-consumer relationships for the foreseeable future, effective, data-driven advertising is going to be more critical than ever. Against the backdrop of Google’s upcoming third-party cookie cull, the need for better tools to better address viewability, measurement, and attribution are not new problems — they’ve long been required a new solution. With this in mind, the pivot to Web3 is more timely than ever, perhaps giving the industry even further impetus to think ahead and evolve for the better.

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