Let me first apologize for beating the drum of viewability once again this week. I don’t want to tap the well dry, but I felt it was important to come back to the subject after a conversation I had with Kevin Lenane, founder and CEO of Veenome.
Veenome released an infographic this week that said less than 50% of all video impressions occur on viewable video players. This stat, while sad, is nothing new. (It’s actually not new in more than one way -- Lenane acknowledged this data is from 2013, but more recent data indicates the viewability problem has not gotten much better.)
Regardless, the topic of the Media Rating Council’s video viewability standards arose during my discussion with Lenane. He had heard that the “two second rule” at the center of the MRC’s video viewability standard -- stating that 50% of the video ad must be in-view for two continuous seconds -- was actually misunderstood and/or misleading. The same sentiment was expressed by true[X] CEO Joe Marchese in a guest op-ed piece in Online Spin.
The misunderstanding was in thinking that the video player had to be 50% in-view for one second, and the video ad had to be playing for another one second, regardless of whether or not it was in-view. This is not true.
I had been unaware that the suppositions around the MRC’s impending video viewability standards existed, so I reached out to the MRC for clarification.
The MRC said the standard for video viewability is 50% of the video player being in-view for at least two consecutive seconds while the video ad is playing.
To quote the MRC’s Viewable Ad Impression Guidelines directly: “To qualify for counting as a viewable video ad impression, it is required that 2 continuous seconds of the video advertisement is played, meeting the same pixel requirement necessary for a viewable display ad. This required time is not necessarily the first two seconds of the video ad; any unduplicated intent of the ad comprising 2 continuous seconds qualifies in this regard.”
I’m not sure exactly where the initial confusion came from, but the MRC’s guidelines do come with some disclaimers, namely that a “legitimate click” -- as deemed by the IAB’s Click Measurement Guidelines -- may overrule the 50%-for-two-seconds rule. Other “strong user interactions” may overrule the 50%-for-two-seconds rule as well. The MRC does note that if ads are deemed viewable because of a “strong user interaction,” it must be fully disclosed.
In addition, it is possible -- perhaps improbable, but still possible -- for a video advertisement to count as viewable if the ad itself never plays, as long as proper disclosure and rationalization are given.
“[If] the criteria used to determine viewability is based on 50% of the video player’s pixels, rather than those of the ad, this distinction should be prominently disclosed, and should be supported by evidence that the impact of using the player as the basis of vieawbility measurement rather than the ad itself is immaterial,” the MRC’s guidelines post reads.
The other important note here is that audio is not required to qualify an ad as viewable, and while that may frustrate some advertisers, it fits with the semantics -- “view” means see, not hear. (For what it’s worth, the MRC says it wants to include audio in the future.)
And finally, another area of concern surrounding the MRC’s guidelines is that in-banner video ads are “generally … covered by the display ad criteria for viewable impression measurement,” per the MRC, meaning that most in-banner video ads will have to be in-view for one second to count as viewable, not two seconds.
What kind of impact will that have? Fresh data from TubeMogul, a programmatic video ad platform, says 2.41% of video ads are streamed in-banner. That's from
a sample of over 200 million video ads bought through TubeMogul, meaning about five million of those video ads would have had to meet the display viewability guidelines, not the video guidelines.
That data is just from TubeMogul's platform, and it's reasonable to think other platforms are buying varying portions of their video ads in-banner, but it gives us some perspective nonetheless.
One second or two seconds, it makes little difference, in my opinion. That's the length of a Snapchat you want someone to see, but not really see. For now, I'll be the optimist and say it's a starting point that's better than nothing.