Making Viewability Mandatory: Real-Time With Clearstream's Mandelbaum

This is must-see TV. It’s truly mandatory viewing.

Those phrases do not typically refer to commercials, but Clearstream, a video ad targeting platform, wants to change that. No -- not by making commercials so good they becomes must-see, but by literally forcing consumers to watch pre-roll ads.

No more tabbing away or scrolling to read the comments while you wait for the ad to run its course.

Clearstream on Thursday introduced a new platform, called Play-In-View, that pauses pre-roll video ads when the consumer tabs away, scrolls down or changes apps on both desktop and mobile phones. The company created the tech in a bid to boost viewability rates. The platform is initially being rolled out with a few clients in beta before a full launch in 2015. You can see a demo of the tech in action here.

Real-Time Daily spoke with Brian Mandelbaum, founder of Clearstream, to chat about the new technology.

Real-Time Daily: Why create the Play-In-View platform?

Brian Mandelbaum: Vewability is still a hot topic. Advertisers are demanding it when it comes to video, and publishers are actually struggling and challenged when it comes to ways to deliver viewability to advertisers. 

the reality is that viewability is not a publisher-only metric. It is just as much a consumer-driven metric as it is publisher-driven.

Viewability rates for ‘premium inventory’ are in the 40% to 55% range. That means that if you have ‘premium’ inventory, it doesn’t mean the consumer will be viewable. That’s because the consumer chooses.

Banner blindness [has] started to become more prevalent in the video space in that consumers are now trained to tab away, and that’s driving viewability rates down, even in premium publishers. Advertisers still want 100% viewability, or near.

We took an approach of letting viewability be based on consumer-driven behavior.

RTD: What have the test shown you in terms of how consumers are responding to the tech?

Mandelbaum: We’re seeing what we call a pause rate -- i.e. if the ad was rendered un-viewable -- we’re seeing a pause rate between 13% to 17%. So on average, 13% to 17% of consumers are bringing the ad below the fold and bringing it back to view.

That’s good news for advertisers and publishers; people aren’t abandoning the placement, they are actually respecting the value exchange.

RTD: What’s the completion percentage or ads traded via Clearstream?

Mandelbaum: These are preliminary numbers -- so I can’t give you anything hard and fast -- but it’s low 80s, high 70s for completion percentage. Again, that’s still preliminary and subject to change, but [they are] really promising statistics. The completion rate of [about] 80% is for a complete viewable ad.

Viewable completion rate [without this tech] is around 50%.

(Clearstream deems an ad viewable if 50% of its pixels are in-view.)

RTD: Is there any correlation between the content behind the ads and completion rates? I would assume that completion rates aren’t as high if the content the consumer is trying to reach is a 20 second cat video versus a full TV show or news update.

Mandelbaum: Our testing hasn’t gone that deep yet; we will though. We measure player size, HD vs. SD, etc. to understand the quality metrics.

The hypothesis you are saying could be correct. What that could do is really shake out great inventory from not great inventory.

RTD: This tech seems to give advertisers a crutch. Do they pay more?

Mandelbaum: There is an increase value. It also puts a premium for the publisher as well. It isn’t just a third-party tool that gives the advertiser the leg up, or a crutch. It also gives the publisher the ability to make their inventory more valuable.

There’s really a quid pro quo between the advertising saying, ‘I want it to be in-view,” and the publisher saying, “We can help.”

RTD: So does Clearstream sit on the supply-side or the demand-side of the equation?

Mandelbaum: It’s a supply-side platform and a demand-side platform. Our technology is called open stream. It can be plugged into a trading desk -- it can be plugged into pretty much anybody. [It makes the video ads available programmatically.] There is no SDK needed.

With no SDK technology, it’s very lightweight. There is no plug-in or integration needed [on the publisher’s end], but it does require acceptance. It’s also available across all devices [because] it uses HTLM5. 

RTD: Are you worried this type of tech could alienate consumers? This goes from being asked to watch an ad before content to being forced to watching the ad.

Mandelbaum: The way we built the tech respects consumers. It’s basically just a ‘wait’ command that says: ‘In order to watch the subsequent content, finish this video.’

It doesn’t alienate consumers, and the statistics prove that. The drop off rate (consumers leaving before ad finishes) isn’t significant at all. This re-demonstrates the value exchange.

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