New IAB Ad Refresh Protocol Increases Ecosystem Transparency

Sovrn Advertising Team // May 9, 2023

At Sovrn, we believe that publishers who create engaging content and rich user experiences should be able to maximize the attention they capture. Until now, however, much of the ad ecosystem has not been set up to reward those publishers.

In late April, the IAB announced it is creating a new protocol allowing publishers to communicate their ad refresh practices to ad buyers. Through this update to OpenRTB specs, publishers can now give buyers a better line of sight into the triggers that cause ads to be refreshed, as well as the minimum interval before an ad is refreshed.

This is a big step forward for the industry. Publishers who maintain the quality of their advertising inventory through reloading now have a way to differentiate themselves from those who do not. On the buyer side, advertisers will be better equipped to make informed decisions and use their marketing budgets efficiently.

Sovrn is proud of the role we’ve played in driving this change. We are long-time advocates for increased transparency in the ad marketplace and a stronger focus on attention as a measure of ad quality. For more than seven years, we’ve offered publishers a way to measure and monetize user attention through multiple mechanisms, including the industry’s only attention-based ad refresh.

What is ad refreshing?

Ad refreshing (or ad reloading) happens when one ad is replaced by a new ad in the same slot after a certain amount of time. This practice is commonly employed by publishers to increase the number of advertising placements made available to buyers. When done properly, it creates valuable inventory to both publishers and advertisers without adding clutter or diminishing user experience. 

However, this tactic can also be abused to create low-value and nonviewable inventory as well as poor user experiences. Simply put, not all refreshed impressions are created equal. 

For advertisers, this can create problems because there are currently no standards for ad refresh quality — which means the value of refreshed ads can vary widely. For example, an ad that reloads only after 20 seconds of cumulative attention is far more valuable than one that is refreshed every 20 seconds, regardless of whether it is in view.  

That’s why smart ad buyers have begun to seek out attention deals — high quality, highly-engaged ad inventory that’s been segmented and packaged in unique Deal IDs. These attention deals are available through a DSP’s deal library, and some advertisers even work with their partners to create custom attention deals targeting specific audience segments. 

This additional layer of information allows buyers to prioritize and reward high-quality inventory by factoring attention into their media purchase decisions. When combined with IAB’s new OpenRTB protocol, this creates a new level of transparency that benefits all constituents in the ecosystem.  

What does this mean for me as a publisher?

If you currently refresh your ads, you should review your setup to ensure it is delivering a consistent quality of ad impression to advertisers. Attention should be a central element of your ad refresh practices — because an engaged audience is more valuable than one not paying attention. 

However, in order to leverage the value of attention in your refresh strategy, you need a tool that can help you quantify user engagement, package up high value audience segments, and broadcast them to buyers. Our data product, Sovrn Signal, is built to do just that.

Signal is built on Sovrn’s engaged time metric, which combines viewability with more than 50 distinct on-page reader actions like swipes, click, scrolls, and mouse movements. Engaged time measures not only when an ad is in view, but also when a person is actively engaged with the content. 

Signal includes a reload feature that can be used to refresh your ads after a set period of engaged time. With Signal, publishers can:

To maintain ad quality and raise the bar for ad refreshing, we also recommend the following best practices:

  1. Ads should never be refreshed if:
    1. A user is in a separate tab from which the ad appears
    2. More than 25% of the ad or 50% of the page content is obfuscated by another window
  2. Ad reloads should only be triggered when at least 51% of the ad is in view
  3. The minimum interval for ad refreshes should be 30 seconds of page “dwell time”  
  4. The minimum interval for ad refreshes should also be 15 seconds of cumulative “viewable time”
  5. Ad reloads should not be initiated if the user has triggered less than 10 “engagement events” with the page (e.g., clicks, key strokes, or mouse movements)

Get started today!

Signal technology gives publishers a simple, scalable way to measure user attention on every page — and then use those insights to maximize ad value and optimize refresh practices. To learn more, visit the Signal page on our website.

Let us know if you’re ready to get started. Our team will be happy to demonstrate how Signal can work for you.

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