Using the forecast

Overview

The forecast is the tool you should consult prior to selling inventory: it predicts (calculates) how much available inventory you will have in a future time range. Without data from the past, the forecast is unable to provide you with meaningful data (predictions).

If you have just launched a new website or a new page, the forecast needs a minimum of 3 days after the launch to be able to provide predictions. However, the forecast results will still be rough and not fully reliable.
As a rule of thumb, the forecast's predictions are fully reliable approx. 4 weeks after the launch of a new website or page. By then, the forecast will also have enough data to consider weekly cycles (less traffic on weekends than on working days).

Key concepts

Forecast criteria

The forecast supports the following criteria:

  • time range (Computation period; up to six months into the future from now)
  • websites/pages/formats/packs
  • targeting criteria
  • capping criteria

For a complete overview on all the criteria, read here.

Total volume

The total volume calculated by the forecast is an estimation of future impressions for the set of forecast criteria you selected. Capping criteria are not considered in the Total volume. When you add a capping criterion in a forecast query, only the Available volume will change (decrease).

Occupied volume

The occupied volume is the volume used by existing insertions for the given set of forecast criteria you selected.

By default, the forecast includes all the volumes of insertions with a priority higher than the Non-guaranteed priorities, but it can be easily customized. The reason is that Non-guaranteed priorities (such as Very low (complement) 1) are designed for In-house ads (non-monetized inventory). In-house ad inventory can be occupied by higher priority (monetized) insertions at any time.

The occupied volume is not to be confused with the booked volume. The booked volume is the volume insertions are supposed to reach. Let's say a website has 1 million impressions per day and you create an insertion (starting tomorrow at 00:00 and ending at 23:59) with a booked volume of 2 million impressions. This insertion will occupy 1 million impressions (daily traffic of the website is 1 million), but its booked volume is 2 million. Since the booked volume does not tell you anything about the available inventory, it is not displayed in the forecast. Only the occupied volume is displayed. However, you can know if you overbooked inventory by checking the icons in the Overbooking column in the insertion list (see below).

Available volume

The available volume is the volume you can still sell for the given set of forecast criteria you selected. By default, it includes the No ad volume (volume not occupied by insertions at all) and the volumes of Non-guaranteed insertions. As mentioned before, this can be easily customized by the user.

Overbooking

Overbooking occurs whenever the total volume of all competing insertions is higher than what is available. As a result, the competing insertions will not be able to reach their individual volumes.

Free version vs. premium version

Please check the comparison here for a complete overview.

Up-to-dateness of the data

When speaking about the up-to-dateness of forecast data, it is important to distinguish between the two types of data:

Total volume: for both forecast versions (free and premium), the computation of the total volume is based on the traffic history until the end of the previous day (till yesterday at 23:59) 

Occupied volume: data about how many of these future impressions (Total volume) are occupied by insertions. For the occupied volume, the up-to-dateness depends on the forecast version you use:

  • in the free version, the occupied volume is computed over night; the computation is finished by 8 AM (of your network's timezone). When you query the forecast today, any insertions (with their volumes of impressions) you may have created during the current day will not be taken into consideration
  • in the premium version, any change to any insertion (e. g. increasing its volume or adding/removing a targeting criterion to/from an insertion) triggers an immediate forecast update. On average, the update result becomes visible after 5 minutes. Thus, the premium version adds a lot of flexibility in your everyday work. Whenever you do changes to insertions during the day, you just have to wait approx. 5 minutes until this change is visible and taken into consideration in a new forecast query
  • In both versions (free and premium) of the forecast, the forecast informs you when the last computation of the occupied volume has been finished. See the date and time for Last computation date at the top of the forecast page
Up-to-dateness of the data

Making forecast queries

You can access the forecast in two ways: using the Forecast button in the top navigation bar (start from scratch) or from an insertion (using the forecast button).

Start from scratch

Start from scratch

Click the Forecast button in the top navigation bar

  • select the Computation period ; change the default time zone if needed
  • select the criteria you wish to query on the Select criteria tab ; check here if you cannot find certain criteria
  • the forecast will display the Total volume , Occupied volume , Available volume ⑤ and Revenue ⑥ for the given set of criteria
  • change the slider position ⑦ if appropriate

About the slider ⑦

Insertions on priority levels beneath the slider position are ignored (volume is considered available) in the forecast query. Moving the slider up frees up inventory. The sums shown in Occuppied volume ④ and Available volume ⑤ will change accordingly.

Example: If you move the slider between High and Normal, all the insertions on the priority levels Normal, Low and Complement will stop occupying volumes in your forecast query.

The slider default position is between Low and Complement insertions. Reach out to your service contact if you wish to change the default position for your network.

The slider feature is particularly relevant when using capping. In this case, the slider should be just below the priority of the insertion you wish to create with this capping (e. g. between High and Normal if you wish to create a High insertion). This makes sure that you get the accurate available volume for an insertion with this priority and capping.

Time zones

If your network works with different time zones, you can select the right time zone for the forecast computation on the drop down menu

Custom computation period

Besides the standard computation periods, you can calculate the forecast over user-defined periods, including delivery timeframes.

Custom forecast period

To calculate a forecast with a custom computation period

  • select "Custom" Computation period ①
  • pick the desired Start date ② and End date ③
  • set up optional additional Delivery timeframes ④

To define a delivery timeframe to further customize the forecast's computation period

  • click on Add a new timeframe ①
  • define the desired timeframe (days, hours and dates) ②
  • repeat and as needed
  • click on Save

Use forecast button in new insertion

Use forecast button in new insertion

You can create your insertion and use the the insertion's Inventory availability (1) button. This sends you to the Forecast UI. All the criteria you have defined in the insertion will pe pre-selected in the forecast UI (formats, websites, pages, packs, targeting criteria, capping). The criteria are summarized in the top right area in the forecast UI.

For users of the free forecast version: If your insertion has more than one targeting type, the Inventory availability button sends you to the forecast, but without any targeting criteria selected. Reason: only the premium version supports more than one targeting criterion.

Switch to the List of insertions tab to see, if the insertion (from which you entered the forecast) is listed at the top of the list. If you find it there, this insertion's booked volume is already considered as occupied in your forecast query. You will not find it there, if the insertion was created after the last forecast update.

Keyword targeting editor

This special editor supports a fast syntax and a logical syntax. Here are the available operators:

Fast syntax

  • "," (comma) meaning "or"
  • ";" (semicolon) meaning "and"
  • "Not" meaning exclusion; this operator can be used only globally on an "or"

Logical syntax

  • "and" meaning "and"
  • "or" meaning "or"
  • "not" meaning exclusion; you can apply this operator to an expression in parenthesis

The logical syntax is more powerful since you can express any possible condition.

Keep in mind: Do not mix the two types of syntax in a single query.

The keyword text editor supports both keywords and keyword groups (as defined in Administration > Keyword groups). You can use both types of keyword group names in the keyword text editor: delivery names and display names. If your display name includes spaces or text in parenthesis, make sure you remove these when making your forecast query. Example: Instead of "Age (nugg)=25-34 yo" use "Age=25-34yo".

Fast syntax Logical syntax
car,phone car or phone
car;phone car and phone
not car,phone not(car or phone)
car,phone;house,shop (car or phone) and (house or shop)
car,phone;not house,shop;cat,dog (car or phone) and not (house or shop) and (cat or dog)
not supported car or not phone
not supported not(car or phone or (house and not shop)) or not (cat and dog)

"multi"-keys

For some keys, you may see "(multi)" after its name. This is the case, when a key appeared with multiple values in the same call. For instance, when a call included "city=london;city=paris", then "city" is a multi-key.

Multi-keys can be meaningfully connected with the AND operator. For instance, if you query city=london AND city=paris, you will get impressions (based on the ad calls which included both values "london" and "paris".

Non-multi-keys are keys whose values were never passed together in a single ad call. Thus, querying them with the AND operator will result in a forecast of 0 impressions.

Keywords with integer values (range targeting)

Smart AdServer's keyword targeting supports both string values and integer (numerical) values:

  • example for a key with a string value: car=mercedes
  • example for a key with an integer value: price=1000 

In insertions, you can target to integer values within a range. Example: 100 < price ≤ 1000 (meaning: you target to any integer in the range 100 till 1000)

If you used range targeting in insertions, ranges are automatically created and made available in the forecast for the key you used:

The keyword text editor also supports ranges for all keys with integer values - even if you have never used range targeting for the given keyword

Keep in mind: Do not use spaces before or after the characters ">" / "<"

Overbooking

Whenever you book a higher volume (in a new insertion) than the available volume calculated by the forecast, an overbooking situation occurs, which can lead to underdelivery of your newly created insertion or underdelivery of the other (competing) insertions.

General recommendations

If you book a little more than the available volume, chances are that things will work out fine. Specific algorithms will move the insertions if their scope is wide enough (when they have many pages and targeting criteria are not too strict etc.).

Always keep in mind that forecasting can never be 100% precise. If you book exactly 100% of the available volume, you may see underdeliveries. Booking 90% of the available volume is a reasonable practice in most cases.

Insertion priorities when overbooking

The insertion priorities, High, Normal and Low are designed to be used for delivery of volumes with even distribution over the time frame (paced delivery). The Exclusive and Non-guaranteed priorities are designed for continuous delivery (without volumes, nor pacing). If you book more than is available (overbooking), you are likely to have underdelivery issues: either with your newly created insertion (if its priority is lower) or with existing insertions (if their priority is lower).

  • if you set the priority to High (for your new insertion), you will penalize existing Normal insertions. They will probably not be able to deliver their volume.
  • if you set the priority to Low (for your new insertion), your insertion will probably not be able to deliver its own volume
  • if you set the priority to Normal (for your new insertion), then the penalty will be shared

Investigating overbooking situations

You can use the several features for your investigations of overbooking situations in both forecast versions (free and premium). However, the premium version opens up a lot more possibilities: the data is updated more often, you can use multiple targeting types etc. For a full comparison between the free and premium versions, read here.

Using the list of insertions

Let's assume you have an insertion with priority Normal 3 and a volume X. At the moment it is underdelivering. You want to investigate the cause and get a deeper understanding of the competing insertions.

Go to your problem insertion and use the forecast button as described above.

Check the Last computation date/time at the top of the forecast. The more recent the update, the more accurate the data you will get.

Switch to the List of insertions tab.

Your problem insertion will be at the top of the list (highlighted yellow). If you cannot find it, wait for the next forecast update.

List of insertions

In the table, you will see all the competing insertions with the columns: Overbooking, Volume, Revenue and Priority.

Overbooking column (1)

The icons (red, orange and green) indicate the likelihood that the given insertion will reach its booked volume:

  • green: everything is fine (insertion will reach 100% of its volume)
  • orange: your insertion will only reach between 80% and 100% of its volume
  • red: your insertion is seriously underdelivering, it will reach less than 80 % percent of its volume

The percentages indicate how much of the booked volume will be reached in percent. In case your insertion uses a group volume (a volume applied to multiple insertions), the icons will be based on this group volume.

Mouse over the icons to see a tooltip providing the absolute numbers.

Keep in mind: An insertion in the list may not use the option Stop insertion at end date, even if all impressions are not delivered. If this option is inactive, the insertion will deliver beyond its defined end date and stop when the volume (goal) is reached. Keep in mind that the black tooltip does not consider this option. The numbers in the black tooltip are only based on the time frame between the start and end date of the insertion.

To get an estimation of the remaining volume of an insertion in the list, select the entire forecast time range (i. e. today plus 6 months into the future) as the forecast Computation period. Then look at the number in the Volume column (this column takes the option Stop insertion at end date, even if all impressions are not delivered into account).

Volume column (2)

The volume column displays the volume the insertion occupies (expressed in impressions).

If your insertion has a click volume, it is converted into impressions and displayed as an impression volume in this column. If the insertion is part of a group volume, the Volume column displays the volume of the insertions itself.

The numbers are only based on the currently selected criteria and computation period (summarized at the top right/left of the forecast page). Keep in mind that the individual insertions listed here, have their own scopes: they may be delivering on more pages or have less strict targeting or run for longer than the criteria and computation period you have currently selected.

The column does not indicate the delivery trend (likelyhood of underdelivery). For underdelivery investigation, please only use the icons/percentages/tooltip in the Overbooking column.

Revenue column (3)

The revenue column displays the income associated with the insertion. Note: the cost data has to be supplied by the user during the insertion's setup.

Priority column (4)

The priority column displays the priority of the insertion.

If you see a competing insertion which catches your interest, you can also use its forecast button () of the insertion right from the list of insertions. This saves you time and has the usual effect of this button:

  • the criteria and time range in the forecast page will be replaced by those of the insertion, where you just clicked the forecast button
  • the insertion will move to the top and will be highlighted yellow
  • the entire list is updated showing the values/indicators of the insertion you just clicked

Sorting the columns

In most cases, underdelivery of insertions with high volumes are more serious (business critical) than underdelivery of insertions with small volumes.

Sort the table by volume (descending order) and focus on the insertions with large volumes (you may need to use the pagination buttons if the list is long). Check the Overbooking column for these large volume insertions to see to which extent they will underdeliver.

Using the split per criteria tab

You can gain further insights by breaking down the data by the criteria offered in the Split per Criteria tab. Add the option Show detail by priority so see the occupied volume by priority.

Use the tooltips in the charts to get absolute figures.

 

Custom report

With custom reports (1), you can retrieve forecast data (csv download) with customized columns (2) and metrics (3).

Notes
- Any selected criteria (displayed on the top right of the forecast UI) are taken into account as filters
- Priority group (4) represents the priority brackets Exclusive, High, Normal, etc.
- Channel (5) represents direct insertion vs. RTB+ insertion
- In the section General > Keywords, delivery names are used (only if keyword groups have been set up)
- Some columns are for information purposes only: they do not add granularity to the report (e. g. column Name (Campaign) in the section General > Insertion has insertion granularity: results will be "by insertion", not "by campaign")

Miscellaneous

When you are investigating overbooking situations, please also consider the following points.

Custom delivery timeframes

The insertion you are investigating may have custom delivery timeframes. For instance it may deliver from 1 till 31 January, but only on certain weekdays or certain times of the day (e. g. 08:00 till 22:00). If an insertion is displayed as overbooked, even though there seems to be enough free inventory, check the insertion's custom deliver timeframes in the insertion summary. Such custom delivery timeframes may be the reason for its overbooked status.

Capping

The forecast supports the frequency capping settings of the insertions. Check the insertion summary in case an insertion is displayed as overbooked, even though there is enough available inventory.

Linked insertions

To see if your insertion has links, open the insertion summary. Overbooking may occur because your insertion A has enough available inventory to deliver but is linked to insertion B which does not have enough inventory. As a result, insertion A is displayed as overbooked.

Also, overbooking may occur, because a third insertion C with a lower priority takes the volume of your insertion A. This can happen if Insertion C (with its lower priority) is linked to a fourth insertion D and the delivery of insertion C is forced in order to respect its link.

So, always look at all the involved linked insertions to get a full picture of the overbooking situation.

Exclusive links

Exclusive links lead to "empty" formats. The forecast is able to consider these. Whenever it detects, that there is a scheduled insertion with exclusive links, it will look at the empty formats and reduce its availability predictions for those formats accordingly.

Keep in mind that the volumes of exclusive links are considered by the forecast depending on the forecast version you use:

  • free forecast version => you need to wait until the next day (updates run over night)
  • premium forecast version => a new or changed exclusive link triggers an immediate update. The effects are then visible after approx. 5 minutes.

Whenever there is a volume blocked as a consequence of exclusive links ("empty formats"), these will show up as an "insertion" in the list of insertions. Keep in mind, that these are not "real" insertion, but simply the way how the blocked volume is displayed. For each of these "insertions", you will find the forecast icon (1) as well as a link named [Exclusive link]. For now, you can ignore both. In a future release, the forecast icon (1) will be removed since it is irrelevant for these "insertions". Also, the [Exclusive link] link will be changed to redirect you to the page of the link category. This page shows the insertions currently assigned to the link category.

Best practices

In order to have the forecast and the overbooking indicators as precise und up to date as possible, you should follow these recommendations

Case What to do Effect
Create the according insertions immediately Set the campaign (under which you created the insertions) to status: Sold, Booked or Prebooked Volume will be considered after next forecast update
An agency/advertiser books a volume but may still cancel theĘdeal Create the according insertions. Set the campaign (under which you created the insertions) to status Draft or Cancel (both status have the same effect) Volume will not be considered after next forecast update
An agency/advertiser cancels a volume (negotiations failed) Set the campaigns (under which you created the insertions) from status Sold/Booked/Prebooked to Draft
OR
Click button Save and finish for every insertion.
OR
Delete the insertions

Warning: Setting the campaign to status Booked or Prebooked does not remove the insertions from the forecast. Clicking the button Save and put insertion offline does not exclude the insertion from the forecast.
Volume will be removed (not considered anymore) after next forecast update
An agency/advertiser has booked a volume; you have already created the insertions; the advertiser/agency wants changes to the criteria (e. g. different volume, other timeframe, different targeting etc.) Make the changes to the existing insertions; you do not have to click Put changes online Volume will be considered after next forecast update
"Orphaned" insertions: insertions in status offline, but not in status finished, with a start date in the past Volume will be removed after next forecast update; this is a general rule, applied by the forecast regardless of the campaign status; the rule can be disabled upon request (speak to your Technical Account Manager if needed)
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