A Brand's RTB Wish? Real-Time With MRC's Gunzerath On Lifting The Viewability Advisory

Viewability has been the topic of the week here at RTM Daily, with Undertone co-founder Eric Franchi sharing his thoughts earlier in the week and the Media Rating Council then announcing its plans to lift its viewability advisory in 2014.

It's the week before Thanksgiving, but for brands looking to do more than flirt with real-time bidding (RTB), this news might make it feel more like Christmas.

I spoke with David Gunzerath, the MRC's senior vice president and associate director, on the lifting of the advisory. What was the initial purpose of the advisory, which was put in place in November 2012? Will it bring more brand dollars to RTB? What is the "reconciliation project" the MRC is doing before it officially lifts the advisory? See below for his thoughts.

RTM Daily: What were the initial reasons for the advisory?

David Gunzerath: A viewable impression is something we've been working with for probably the better part of three years now. The first company that came to us with a viewable impression was in 2010. So we've audited this technology before.

Then the 3MS initiative got going, which essentially pegged viewability as important. We agree with that perspective; we think viewability represents an improvement to the measurement landscape.

As a result of 3MS and the work they did, we engaged last summer in what we called the Agency Pilot. This was kind of a live production test to give us a sense for what would be the impact of instituting a viewable impression as a legitimate metric by which the marketplace could buy and sell. We worked with about a dozen agencies, 20 advertisers, and five viewability vendors to do this.

It was a huge pilot -- more than 3 billion served impressions -- and we got a lot of data out of it. Coming out of that project, we didn't think buyers and sellers should just jump full bore into using viewability as a buy/sell metric without first understanding the issues we found.

RTMD: What is the "reconciliation project"? I gather that it's a project meant to educate the marketplace on the differences that should be accounted for between viewability vendors.

Gunzerath: That's essentially it. One of the things we've been doing is auditing more viewability vendors -- we see more and more companies and what their processes are.

What we're finding is, even among some of those vendors that we've accredited (six to date), there's still some differences in the counts they present. Two vendors tagging the same campaign producing different results would lead to confusion.

We think we have a pretty good handle on why those differences exist. The project is meant to confirm what we think we know.

RTMD: Who is happier: buyers or sellers?

Gunzerath: From an advertiser's point of view, it's important -- especially for brands. But we think it helps the sell-side as well. If you can optimize viewability on your site, you're making your site better and creating a better user experience

It is everybody's goal to have as much be viewable inventory as possible.

RTMD: You mentioned viewability being big for brands. One of the panels at OMMA RTB this week was all about whether or not brands and RTB can fit. Do you think this will help?

Gunzerath: I think it will in the sense that they will have confidence in the measurement. If they have confidence in what's reported, and it's consistent regardless of the source, then yeah, it makes sense in a programmatic environment.

RTMD: How exactly will the "reconciliation project" unfold? An event? Phone calls? Whitepapers? What's its timeline?

Gunzerath: It will be largely over the next month, so by year's-end we will be in a position to communicate our findings. The additional time in the first quarter is really for people to react.

We will probably educate in written form. We haven't worked out the specifics -- press releases, postings, etc. -- but it'll be more than just an informal phone call here and there.

RTMD: What's still on the horizon in terms of viewability at the MRC?

We currently have six accredited viewability vendors, and more than that are in some stage of the accreditation process right now.

RTMD: Any final comments?

Gunzerath: I think the marketplace is waiting for us to opine on this, and we are prepared to do that.

We've come a long way. A lot of work has been done over the last year; we've learned a lot and are closing in on the finish line.

1 comment about "A Brand's RTB Wish? Real-Time With MRC's Gunzerath On Lifting The Viewability Advisory".
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  1. Anni Paul from BoscoSystems, November 23, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.

    Good discussion, but its one that needs to take place on a more widespread basis. Mobile RTB is fast-becoming a vitally important component in mobile advertising today. If it didn't "arrive" in 2013, it certainly will in 2014...

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