So Close, You Can Almost See It: Viewability

Digital advertising currency is on the threshold of a major transformation. The first big ecosystem-wide milestone for the Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative is almost upon us: the Media Rating Council (MRC) will soon be lifting its advisory to green-light viewable impressions as the currency for brand advertising transactions. The expected date is March 31.

In preparation, on March 14 the IAB hosted an update on viewable impressions by the MRC. And while I’ll be summarizing some of the high points, there's no way that I can do them justice, so I strongly recommend that you take advantage of being able to review the entire session here.

First, it is important to note that the notion of an exposure, an ad impression that had an opportunity to be seen, is not a value metric.  A viewable impression is equal to one exposure.  It is neither a good exposure nor a bad exposure.  It is simply one “opportunity to see.”

A viewable impression is the foundation for more, better measurement and tools that will prove value. 

A viewable impression is the foundation for assessing what works in a large brand ad campaign that runs across digital and legacy media.  If you can’t count the ads that rendered where someone could see them, then you can’t accurately assess their impact.  Moreover, you can’t assess their impact on a level playing field. 

It is hard to change currency.  We all know that.  It takes resources to test multiple data sources. In addition, the measurement methods are new, so finding variances is expected. 

Still, if you are a publisher, no matter how much you’ve tested and retested, and forecasted and reforecasted, there are still unknowns.  The agencies, too, are engaged in testing and retesting and facing some implementation challenges. 

The challenges for publishers and agencies will be dramatically mitigated by the findings of the MRC reconciliation project, which will be unveiled in advance of, or in tandem with, the advisory against transacting on viewable impressions being lifted at the end of the quarter. 

The completion of audits and the accreditations of vendors that measure viewability needed to happen before the reconciliation work could happen. 

Why? To use an analogy: You cannot repair the engine without getting under the hood. 

Similarly, you cannot guide an orderly, fair currency transition when new measurement technologies and methods are required if you do not know the intimate details of those measurements.   You cannot improve/refine those measurements without knowing exactly what to alter. 

Think about having to do all this without favoring any party in the market and without hampering innovation.  This is a daunting task.  And, the MRC is completing it. 

There is a growing body of knowledge about how measurement of viewable impressions is affected by different techniques and processes.  MRC and the accredited vendors are working on eliminating the known sources of variances.  While doing so, they're refining viewability measurements required to maintain future accreditation.

In just about a week, we should know what level of variance is acceptable for trading.  We will know how to amend the standard Terms and Conditions in order to ensure that buying and guaranteeing digital display advertising are not subject to additional supply chain friction.  The aspiration is that the range of difference across measurement sources fall within 10%.

Are you ready for this incredible sea change? It might be a rocky ride at first, but expect tremendous long-term benefit for the digital industry. And, viewability is just the beginning. Next up for 3MS: establishing a digital GRP standard.

Tags: metrics
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2 comments about "So Close, You Can Almost See It: Viewability".
  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein , March 19, 2014 at 2:13 p.m.
    Can the bar possibly be set any lower?
  2. Daniel Sandler from PointRoll, Inc. , March 21, 2014 at 10:04 a.m.
    Hi Sherrill, What is the IAB's stance about publishers being more compliant with advertisers? To say this is a rocky road is putting it lightly since there are insurmountable obstacles for advertising technology providers to calculate viewability in any capacity without heavy involvement of the publishers in their network. - Dan