Whither The Viewable Impression Pilots?

Industry discussions of viewable ad impressions and cross-media platform comparability using common metrics have become more frequent and more intellectually robust as Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) has continued.  3MS is the cross ecosystem initiative that is a joint undertaking of the ANA, the 4A’s and the IAB, facilitated by Bain & Company, that is changing measurement as we write this column. 

We embarked upon 3MS in order to focus on the digital metrics that the interactive advertising landscape requires to make digital media more brand-hospitable and more easily applicable to cross-media-platform transactions.

One question on everyone’s mind as we try to determine how to prepare for the pending change in standards is: What is the status of the viewable impression pilots? 

Before we answer that, a brief review of why and how the pilots began is necessary.  Even the word “pilots” can mean different things to different members of the field, and in this case the word means early stage tests that precede wider market tests that would then lead to a new standard. 

The things we are trying to learn in the pilots are as simple as: “is it feasible to use ad-serving technology to serve viewable impressions?”  Even this early stage testing presents complexities that the untrained eye could not have seen.  To get to the feasibility testing, the Media Rating Council (MRC) set forth 17 technical requirements to ensure that in fact, servers are testing whether or not impressions are viewable. 

In addition, the first round of pilots sought to provide empirical indication of whether or not the proposed minimum standard of 50% of the ad in view for one second is a reasonable one.  There is data that suggests that nested i-frames may hinder the capacity to determine whether or not a served ad is viewable.   We know that i-frames are a security container that protects the integrity of content and were never deliberately used to obscure measurement.  Still, the ecosystem needs to have a full grasp of the scope of the potential problem. 

There are feasibility issues pertaining to workflow and implementation on the publisher side that we wanted to explore in the early stage pilots.   And if the first early pilot tests are the indicators of any issues that have not been considered, we wanted to learn of those before moving to the second stage of pilots. Here, the reference to second stage refers to the 3MS plan to have agencies and advertisers participate in pilot tests before going into full market testing.  During the period of full market testing, the industry will have access to parallel data streams in order to complete evaluations of the impacts.

What have we learned in the first early stage pilots?

  • We’ve ascertained the feasibility of serving technology to measure whether or not ads are viewable.
  • We can now estimate that the proposed minimums are in the right ballpark.
  • The i-frame-related issues seem to have differential impacts across different publisher sites.  Clearly, the efforts already underway to solve for i-frames’ effect on measurability are important and are being ramped up.  The IAB is at the forefront of providing viable solutions and there will be much more to come.
  • While our early stage tests have been limited to a small number of publishers using run of site (ROS) placements, we now know that both time in view and space impact viewability.  We have much to learn as we continue.

The guiding spirit in the next phases will be the MRC.  As we move from 3MS to ecosystem-wide standards setting and measurement change management, we will look to MRC to lead the efforts to test, learn and change. 

The second stage of pilot testing, agency pilots using real advertiser flights, are beginning, and the timeline is for MRC to receive data in July.  Once in the hands of MRC, the data will be analyzed, aggregated and anonymized so that we all can learn more about the implications of moving to a viewable impression standard -- and, very importantly, we can prepare the businesses for change.

2 comments about "Whither The Viewable Impression Pilots?".
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  1. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, May 18, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.

    The 3MS intiative is commendable notably its full (and essential) involvement with the MRC and its drive to measuring ad exposure versus merely gross impressions. However it is travelling "highways" that have been embraced by the OOH industry in many countries globally and while the 3MS consortium faces very different technical measurement challenges the overall principals are the surely the same. I suggest the "minimum standard of 50% of the ad in view" will be problematic for many planners/buyers. Obstructed OOH panels are generally discounted by buyers.
    In view of the phenonemal efforts being invested, is it wise not to proceed with MRC based on a full ad exposure measure rather than going "half way"!?

    Tony Jarvis

  2. Nick D from ___, May 22, 2012 at 4:51 p.m.

    An interesting and useful update - good to know what's happening and where everything's got to.

    In response to Tony's point, I think the 3MS consortium is working on the assumption that it has to keep standards fairly open, at least at this point, to ensure maximum agreement. Ultimately this initiative will die if the majority of brands, agencies and publishers don't get on board, and so the 50% threshold may be aimed towards achieving that level of buy-in. It may be at a later date that it changes; or it may not - it may be that the "100% in view" figures are just too low to keep brands and publishers happy.

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