Seeing Viewability Clearly

As the ecosystem continues to transition to a viewable display advertising currency and dives deeply into the nuances of digital video viewability, the prodigious efforts many companies and individuals have made to further these goals are more and more visible.  The Media Ratings Council (MRC), Association of National Advertisers (ANA), American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have been publishing materials and producing webinars and Town Halls, and even launched a comprehensive sitedevoted to Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS), to get industry stakeholders prepared for the dramatic shift that is nearly upon us. But this is a big change that requires communication every step of the way.

For example, as we get closer to the date when the MRC plans to lift its advisory against transacting on viewable impressions, it's imperative that the marketplace is fully clear in understanding that seeing viewability and being viewable are two different things. 

I mean that while there’s broad consensus around the need to have a viewability standard, there is still much work underway to ensure that improved measurability and the technical enhancements needed to ensure that goal are in place.  There is still a debate in digital video circles about the precise requirements that should be in the standard. 

Thankfully, I’m seeing our communications about this important distinction taking hold.

Courtesy of the 4A’s, I was able to attend a recent briefing by George Ivie, CEO and executive director of the MRC for agency planners and buyers.  This group of bright people who are executing digital buys everyday understood that while we see viewability coming -- and coming soon -- the tools are not yet in place to transact on viewability.  We have not yet become as fully measurable as we would like, and therefore cannot prove how viewable we are yet. 

The planners and buyers in the room recognized why the leaders of their respective agencies have been working with the rest of the ecosystem to secure an orderly transition to viewable display currency.  And they are eager to do so themselves, even in the face of client requests for viewability guarantees.

That deep understanding of the shift that is underway with 3MS was gratifying to see. However, it is still incumbent upon all of us involved in the initiative to keep the communication going strong. In that vein, several materials were published last week, and anyone preparing for the switchover needs to review them straight away:

Becoming familiar with these materials will give you:

  • Undeniable confirmation that marketers want viewability standards in place by the end of 2013, as well as an understanding that sellers who make the investments required to change to a viewable display impression will be rewarded.
  • An understanding of how to move unmeasurable inventory to measurable.
  • A primer on how SafeFrame, a critical solution to seeing into i-frames, works.
  • Detailed information on the who, what, when and why of the 3MS program.

To our colleagues who have asked for more information and conversation, and to our colleagues who simply have been too busy to follow the developments, I say: Please read up, please listen, and please ask questions!  In fact, the IAB is hosting a Town Hall on 3MS tomorrow, and you are welcome to join. We anticipate a capacity crowd, but encourage you to register for the webinar.

All of you are part of this major turning point for the digital arena.  Now is the time to get updated and involved.

6 comments about "Seeing Viewability Clearly".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, August 19, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.

    Good post Sherrill. There is a strong similarity to OOH. Virtually every billboard is 'viewable' (apart from the few that have been obstructed by tree growth of new construction) otherwise they wouldn't have been erected. But this does not mean that everyone who passes a billboard sees it. So, in Australia's OOH measurement system the basic unit is to calculate the 'opportunity-to-see' (i.e. whether it is viewable and by how many), but we only report on the 'likelihood-to-see (i.e. just that proportion which will see a billboard on the average day). The latter was collected using hundreds of hours of eye-gaze data from which we were able to generate a seven-parameter algorithm that can determine/predict that likelihood.

  2. Laurent Nicolas from Alenty, August 20, 2013 at 4:18 a.m.

    Very interesting analysis, thanks!
    Ad-viewability in iframes is not a problem anymore. So SafeFrames may not be the ultimate solution, because ad-viewability vendors are more neutral than publishers...
    Regarding instream video ads, the same IAB standard can technically be applied (50% of the area in-view during more than one second). Alenty has done this for several years...
    But the market requires a stricter level, just because instream ads are much more expensive.
    Some of our clients, like, use our measurement to guarantee that the video ad is viewable during at least 80% of the duration of the message...

  3. Nick D from ___, August 20, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.

    Laurent: "Ad-viewability in iframes is not a problem anymore": can you clarify? Cross-domain iFrames are still a problem, no?

    And it was my understanding that the 'debate' about video viewability was more or less over - several key video vendors having got together to agree a standard? Those discussions may not have included the IAB, but that's beside the point.

  4. Laurent Nicolas from Alenty, August 20, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.

    There are solutions to measure ad-viewability within iframes. Contact me (laurent.nicolas at if you want to know more.
    Regarding videos, vendors only refer to ad-delivery, not ad-viewability. The difference is not negligible... Google TrueView for instance guarantees that the video was delivered, not that it was seen (in-view).

  5. Sadie Marshall from O&S Media, March 19, 2014 at 10:53 a.m.

    You have written a great article here Sherril. I agree with Laurant that there are few probs now with ads in iFrames compared to a while ago.

  6. Peter Myles from Media Associates, January 19, 2015 at 10:31 p.m.

    Interesting topic, but I’m not sure I agree with everything said here. True, in the past there were some inherent problems associated with iFrames and displaying ads, but nowadays that really doesn't present much of a problem anymore. For starters, what type of platform are we talking about here? Ads can be displayed satisfactory across most digital platforms. When we talk about the ad itself, what language best suits, is probably more to the point, then will iFrames cause a negative impact.

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