Not All Impressions Are Created Equal

By: Susan Panico, Senior Vice President of Strategic Solutions, Pandora

My first digital media buy wasn’t a buy at all. In fact, it was “added value” to a print buy. That was back in the day when buttons and banners were new and enticed people to “click through” to a website, but that was about all they did (yes, I am dating myself!). As marketers, we didn’t foresee how cluttered it would become and, even more concerning, how little control we had over where our ads appeared.

This is the situation the industry finds itself in today, as the world’s largest digital media publisher faces backlash after it was discovered that ads were appearing next to offensive content. The Economist described the situation best: “never before have so many advertisers raised concerns about what they call ‘brand safety’ all at once.”

As an industry, we’ve debated a lot of whack-a-mole topics: Will programmatic replace real sales people? Will ad blocking put publishers out of business? Will people see my ad? Did real people see my ad? And most recently, where will my ad end up?

What this really comes down to is quality. How can advertisers achieve scale--in the most efficient and effective way possible--while not sacrificing the quality of their ad placements?

This is an important question to ask before buying audio, display or video advertising--three solutions Pandora frequently offers our brand partners. Maintaining quality is our utmost priority and something our team at Pandora has thought long and hard about (and continues to think about) in order to understand how we define quality for ourselves and the brands we work with.

At Pandora, we unwaveringly accepted the responsibility to ensure brand messages are served in a brand-safe and viewable environment. So, what does that mean exactly?:

  • Viewable Impressions: We support viewable impressions as a new currency in digital media, which is why we offer the ability to seamlessly buy 100% in-view impressions across mobile in-app and desktop.
  • Visual Ads Served on Engagement: Attention and engagement mean a lot to advertisers. Our display and video ads are only served when a user is actively engaging with Pandora, such as giving a thumbs up, thumbs down, skipping a song or changing the station.
  • Uncluttered Environment: A quality environment is one where brands don’t have to compete unnecessarily for a consumer’s attention. Clean and uncluttered interfaces across desktop, mobile app and connected devices grants our brand partners 100% share of screen, ensuring their message is the only ad on the page.
  • Transparency in Measurement: Pandora’s logged-in user base is one defensce against ad fraud. Giving advertisers confidence in our inventory means supporting the use of independent ad verification partners via MRC accredited, tag-based measurement. We support multi-vendor viewability, invalid traffic (IVT) and brand safety measurement solutions for advertisers running on direct and programmatic channels. We work with our client’s preferred third party3P vendor for web products and offer in-app measurement through our preferred partnership with data analytics company, Moat.
  • Moving Mobile Measurement Forward: Additionally, Pandora is an active participant in the IAB’s In-App Viewability Measurement Standardization Working Group, looking to the Open Source SDK Initiative to unlock the ability for the industry to have true flexibility in 3P measurement in-app.
The world of digital advertising continues to transform--only more quickly these days. We’re likely to experience growing pains as the industry catches up to an increasing level of connectivity and demand for quality content. It’s the democratic nature of the internet that makes it so hard to avoid unsavory ad environments and publisher missteps.

That’s why the onus is on us as marketers, brands, agencies and publishers to fight hard to enforce our own standards and ethics around quality. As marketers, we have a duty to protect the integrity of the brand we support, so doing the necessary due diligence to confirm where our ads get placed is imperative to ensuring that every impression is a quality impression.

Susan Panico is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Solutions at Pandora, working to fuse the passion point of music with the power of personalization to deliver marketing solutions that capture hearts, minds and ROI for Pandora brand partners. Follow her on Twitter at @SusanPanico.