Everyone’s thumb and forefinger are on warp speed, pushing content past consumers’ eyes faster and faster. Therefore it’s no wonder ads are often just blurs on a screen that don’t get seen, that advertisers pay for.
Viewability in digital advertising is a hot topic in Adland, particularly after GroupM’s announcement it was trading on viewability and IPG Mediabrands’ strive for 100 per cent viewability for clients.
There are a number of challenges in the market, and not everyone is on the same page. Here’s the low-down of where the issue sits currently.
What actually is it?
An ad that’s viewable – meaning it’s, in theory, being seen by a consumer – is to have an ad where at least half of it has been on a desktop screen for a minimum of one second. If it’s a video ad, that increases to two seconds. This definition has been determined by the MRC (Media Rating Council), the main point of call for accrediting media companies with the correct practices. However, there doesn’t appear to be an industry standard for mobile ads yet.
Where does mobile come into it?
While desktop and video ad viewability have been worked out, mobile isn’t there – yet. It’s tricky. In the US many brands want to make sure their ads are viewable, however there’s a limited number of tech vendors accredited by the MRC that are able to measure mobile ad viewability.
“But with mobile accounting for 50 per cent or more of traffic to some major websites, advertisers don’t want to wait for mobile viewabilty to get sorted out,” writes Mike Shields from The Wall Street Journal. “They want to run mobile ads now, and they only want to pay for ones that people have a chance to see.”
The Wall Street Journal last year referenced technology company Moat as being the first one accredited for mobile,.
The IAB in North America is only just starting to take a look at mobile now, said Alice Manners, CEO of the IAB in Australia, with the Aussie IAB focusing on desktop ads at the moment. Mobile viewability will be a future endeavour. However, GroupM announced yesterday it had partnered with Moat, with John Miskelly, chief digital officer, telling B&T it will trade on mobile viewability as well as desktop.
What does the industry think of viewability?
The push for viewability has mainly been driven by agencies and clients, said Rich Way, head of digital and data at media agency Carat. And it’s pushed publishers to adapt to the demand for being accountable in a digital world.
“The key thing for a lot of agencies however is how much value should we put on what is technically classed as viewable,” he said, referencing the current model of 50 per cent pixels for a minimum one second.
There’s no doubt viewability is high up on the priority list, however Stuart Bailey, chief digital officer at OMD, said it’s not the only thing people should think about when it comes to campaign objectives.
“For example, just because an ad is below the fold and has a lower viewability rate than something above the fold it doesn’t mean that it will necessarily perform worse from a core campaign KPI (key performance index) point of view,” he said.
“We need to optimise to viewable impressions but this needs to be in the context of our clients business and campaign objectives.”
Nevertheless, many agencies are starting to make headway into trading a client’s inventory on viewability, such as IPG Mediabrands’ intelligent and investment division Magna Global, and GroupM.
In early November 2015, Manga Global made the bold move of announcing its intention to get to 100 per cent viewability in trading for its clients. The initiative is called Project Quality, and is being spearheaded by Maria Grivas, head of digital for Manga Global.
At the time of launch, Grivas said: “We believe that the broader industry – agencies, exchanges, advertisers and publishers – need to actively strive towards 100 per cent viewable and fraud-free digital delivery. We are launching Project Quality to prompt more action across the industry.
“Whilst 100 per cent may be an ambitious goal today, it should not limit our ultimate goal,” she added. “By collaborating with publishers and exchanges we are aiming to maximise adoption and therefore campaign effectiveness. To that end, we have agreed to accept a publisher’s viewability measure provided it’s from an industry accredited third party and an IPG Mediabrands approved vendor.”
Similarly, GroupM has said there are certain key ad placements it can guarantee 100 per cent viewability. Read more about GroupM’s announcement here.
Mark Mansour, head of advertising at eBay Australia, said viewability has become a critical metric for brands and agencies that advertise with the company.
“The big change for us in the last few months has been the increase in agencies starting to build out their policies and reaching out to us in an effort to meet their viewability objectives,” he said.
“It falls to the publishers to maintain the integrity of the online advertising ecosystem by working closely with advertisers and maintaining the value of premium inventory through stringent measurement and products that meet higher viewability metrics.”
Not everyone gets it
While some seem to know the ins and outs of viewability, both Bailey and IAB’s Alice Manners said education in the industry is mixed.
“There is still work that needs to be done in this marketplace,” said Manners, “both from an education perspective and tackling some of the challenges that we have before we’re in a comfortable position to be able to trade on viewable impressions.
“It’s about getting people to understand it’s about the opportunity to see, it’s not about engagement or ad effectiveness,” she said. “Marketers and agencies need to be aware that just because an impression couldn’t be measured, it doesn’t mean that that was not a viewable ad, in the same way a non-measurable impression doesn’t equal a fraudulent impression.”
OMD’s Bailey added: “Like a lot of these subjects – ad blocking, ad fraud, brand safety etc – it can be blown out of proportion by sensationalist articles.”
Aside from the education challenge, there are tech issues, too. And a lot of that comes from the tech vendors themselves who verify the third-party viewable data to ensure it’s correct. The trouble with the vendors is they all measure slightly differently.
“Because they measure different,” explains Manners, “if a buyer and a seller is using a different tech vendor, they’re going to see different results.”
Yes, the MRC accredits vendors to have trustable data, but Manners said because it has accredited a large number of vendors the IAB further recommends a buyer and a seller agree on a vendor before the process gets underway to keep data consistent.
eBay’s Mansour said ultimately it will be the advertisers who decide on the tech they want to use and what will be meaningful for them.
“It’s important that the advertiser is open about their expectations and agrees with the publisher on using a measurement vendor accredited by the MRC,” he said. “We have our own partner for measuring viewability but we can be agnostic regarding the technology advertisers would like to use so long as we can share the data and optimise accordingly.”
Agency, publisher and advertiser. Who needs to push for viewability?
While it’s an industry-wide issue, who needs to be the first one to push for viewable ad trading?
“Publishers will start to trade on viewability as agencies and clients will apply the pressure on this,” said OMD’s Bailey. “From my conversations with publishers they understand this but they want to be taken on the journey to understand what technology and methodology will be used, how to test it, what the implications might be etc.”
IAB’s Manners believes it needs to come from everyone. It affects the industry as a whole, so the industry together to needs get on the same page. The joint venture sentiment is echoed by eBay’s Mansour, who added it needs to become a more widely accepted standard.
“At eBay we’re adopting viewability in multiple ways,” he explained. “We’re launching new ad units as ‘lazy loaded’ units so they only load once they’re in view and we’re looking into ways of charging for viewable impressions where we’ll be able to guarantee a level of viewability for our advertisers.”
However, Manners added the industry needed to look at the switch to trading on viewable ads from a value perspective.
A served impression, in theory, means the ad has loaded on the page. Whereas a viewable impression means at least half of the loaded ad has been seen. So a served impression would arguably generate more impressions than a viewable impression.
Manners stressed we need to look at it as providing better value. “A viewable impression is higher value than a non-viewable impression,” she said.
eBay’s Mansour said it’s only the first step in display media, albeit a very important one. “It’s a catalyst for change which will see a move away from banners to more integrated content that not only provides more value to advertisers but improves the user experience,” he said.
Lead image via ThinkwithGoogle.