New Viewability Guidelines Bring Much-Needed Third Dimension To Ad Buying

The Media Research Council (MRC) and the IAB this week issued viewable impressions guidelines for both static display and video ads: for the former, 50% of pixels in view for at least one continuous second; for the latter, 50% of pixels in view for two seconds.

In a world where advertisers and audiences are considering “TV” (Television) more and more as the broader descriptor of “T/V” (Television/Video), this new standard for minimum video viewability brings the largest single pool of ad buying dollars under the microscope. Traditional, linear television has never had a viewability standard.

Though this may rock the worlds of all television sellers who’ve enjoyed high CPMs and automatic annual rate increases driven by demand exceeding supply over the years, a viewability standard will be a very good thing. Accountability and clarity of value are always good for the long-term health of any business marketplace. Traditional linear TV will now need to catch up in order to compete for online and mobile video ad dollars and defend its revenues. Broadcast and cable television networks will now need to measure and report viewability; technologically this is as possible for cable as it is for Internet-delivered T/V. All I can say as a former TV planner and buyer is: “It’s about time!”

A standardized minimum viewability definition for video brings a much-needed third dimension to the way audiences are evaluated by advertisers. Pierre de Grandmaison, Teads.tv’s head of business development (and a client of mine) noted that in the past, traditional television has been evaluated and purchased on two dimensions:

Dimension 1: Audience impressions (based on opportunity for exposure tied to the audience size of the host programming).

Dimension 2: Reach (% of target population who had the opportunity to be exposed to an ad based on unduplicated audience of the host programming)

Now there will be a third dimension of value:

Dimension 3: Time actual ads have been viewed.

This means that there is now a guarantee to advertisers that at least some of the ad was actually seen, a guarantee never before delivered from viewer panel research and electronic measurement based on traditional TV program ratings. The upside of adding this third dimension is the simultaneous ability to measure completed ad viewership. Many advertisers are beginning to buy online video on a CPCV (Cost Per Completed View) basis. What a concept!

The power of sight/sound/motion for branding and moving prospects down the marketing funnel to purchase has always provided value, but buying television has been like throwing darts in a dark room, with no guarantee that ads were actually seen. In the future, we can expect this third dimension metric, not just the minimum time viewed, but actual time viewed, to determine where advertisers should be paying premiums, or not.  The host program ratings have not provided valid surrogates for ads viewed for the last 30 years – it’s been an increasingly ad-avoidant world. The three-dimensional approach will finally focus on the ad ratings themselves, and I believe will result in a fair and prosperous marketplace for sight, sound and motion audience delivery from here on out.

Bravo, MRC and 3MS, for a job well done!

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3 comments about "New Viewability Guidelines Bring Much-Needed Third Dimension To Ad Buying".
  1. Ken Nicholas from MindOnMedia[Sales] , April 4, 2014 at 2:42 p.m.
    John, I am glad that someone such as yourself has brought this point out publicly, a point I've wondered about for some time now. We've seen endless chatter recently about a 'unified' GRP metric [from those on the conference circuit, who give themselves away instantly with this], broad 'cross-platform' acceptance, and all kinds of similar stuff. All the while missing the key point: unified, and cross-platform to…what, exactly? Everybody was looking so far ahead, they actually forgot to go back and look at what's actually in place. Well done.
  2. John Osborn from TV-The Next Generation , April 4, 2014 at 2:46 p.m.
    Thanks Ken. No doubt, things are going to get very interesting in the next year as the industry really absorbs this. Perhaps the basis of a reality T/V program: "Real buyers of T/V"?
  3. John Osborn from TV-The Next Generation , April 4, 2014 at 2:46 p.m.
    Thanks Ken. No doubt, things are going to get very interesting in the next year as the industry really absorbs this. Perhaps the basis of a reality T/V program: "Real buyers of T/V"?