Head-On Collision Ahead: Guaranteed Viewability Meets Multiplatform Video GRP

3MS (Making Media Make Sense)is an initiative that the IAB, the ANA and the 4As are leading -- an ambitious effort to create consensus across industry stakeholders. The goal is to create “digital measurement solutions, which will enhance digital media planning, assessment and comparison.”

Because most ad budgets for major advertisers are earmarked for traditional television platforms year after year, this seems the only viable way to really bring some of the exciting new digital video formats and technologies into  consideration. Hope comes from the success of past initiatives like the IAB's banner ad standards, plus VAST and VPAID definitions which defined and standardized digital and interactive ad specs.

Everyone in the industry can agree on the 5-point principles of 3MS.  How to get there, however, is clearly the hard work at hand.  Here is the stated path forward (right now the consortium is focused on step 1):



#1 - Shift from a “served” to a “viewable” impression standard

#2 - Introduce an online Gross Ratings Point metric, providing reach and frequency reporting of viewable impressions

#3 - Implement a classification system and taxonomy for banner, rich media and streaming video ads

#4 - Define, standardize and accredit metrics for view-through reporting and cumulative social activity

#5 - Establish standards and vendor accreditation to improve the methodology for online brand attitudinal studies

It is said that by the end of 2013, with the introduction and adoption of IAB's Safe Frame technology, publishers and advertisers will be able to overcome the limitations of traditional cross-domain i-frames (opaque containers which kept ad content safe but didn't allow reporting on whether the ad was in view). If all goes as hoped, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) will lift an advisory on transacting based on viewable impressions as early as year’s end.

This discussion has mostly focused on display ads, where the goal outcomes are long overdue.  When it comes to cross-platform T/V (Television/video), however, I see the process throwing a spotlight on one of the most avoided and embarrassing truths about traditional television buying: viewability has never been guaranteed. Traditional television metrics have always been “opportunity to expose” -- or, as 3MS calls it, “served” impressions. As a common GRP metric for “viewed” impressions is introduced, it will allow buyers and sellers to evaluate traditional television ad budgets (where the majority of budgets still reside) against online and mobile (tablet, smartphone) digital video delivery. A Pandora's Box will finally be thrown open and dealt with, and the fresh air flowing through the industry will be refreshing.

In this recent article, two leaders of the 3MS initiative, George Ivie of the Media Rating Council and Steve Sullivan of the IAB, state that online publishers need to adopt the SafeFrame technology in order to be able to report and insure view ability measures to advertisers.

If a viewable GRP is to truly be the new currency for T/V ad buying, then the next steps would be for cable and satellite systems, broadcast and cable networks, and newer ad-supported content delivery entities like MS XBox, Smart TVs and Hulu, to embrace the reporting of ad viewability in a consistent and comparable way. I can hear the cries of the traditional ad sellers from here: “How can we maintain our revenues if we only sell ads that are viewed?”

The answer is simple, and that is to charge advertisers what they have already proven willing to pay for guaranteed viewability on digital video platforms. Some advertisers in other countries have been willing to pay 10 cents to 15 cents a view for guaranteed, completed digital video views -- that’s $100 - $150 per thousand! 

This shift will not come easily, and will involve changes that should have happened 15 years ago: second-by-second ad ratings and full DVR behavior including ad viewing. And please don’t tell me this can’t be technologically accomplished.  It’s already being done in the digital video world.

We also need traditional television distributors to work with third-party measurement verifiers like Nielsen, comScore and TRA to master the measurement of viewability -- to know what content including ads are in view of a television viewing audience at any given moment.

This is the brave new world that the digital revolution is creating, thanks to the good work of so many who are taking the bull by the horns and figuring out that an ad that plays on a screen, like the tree that falls in the woods, is not an ad unless there is an audience to view it. Stay with it, 3MS. I, and I’m sure many of us, are rooting for you to do the right thing!
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2 comments about "Head-On Collision Ahead: Guaranteed Viewability Meets Multiplatform Video GRP".
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  1. Mark Mclaughlin from McLaughlin Strategy, September 16, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.

    Another challenge to sort out is audience guarantees where the buyer only pays for ad impressions that reach the correct demo target. With TV, you serve an ad once and pay for the ad impressions that reached the agreed upon target audience - like Women 18-49. If W18-49 are 30% of the impressions, the other impressions are all free to the buyer. The impressions are estimated using Nielsen composition data. "Waste" or "bonus" ad impressions are not a big concern because there is no out-of-pocket cost associated with those impressions. With online, Nielsen OCR makes it possible to do something analogous to TV with audience composition guarantees. But with streaming video, ads are served one at a time. Unfortunately, it is impossible to serve ads only to people in the demo target because predictive data is imperfect. The concept of bonus inventory would be acceptable to many sellers but the problem is that there are serving and technology fees for every ad served regardless of who it reaches. So, even if targeting gets so good that 80% of the online video ads reach the correct target audience, there are hard costs associated with serving the ads that missed the target. We don't really have that dilemma sorted out yet.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, September 17, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

    "an ambitious effort to create consensus across industry stakeholders". That's just a way of saying it's never going to happen, right?

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