Somehow, I’d think this would happen more. There’s a report that Unilever and Group M’s Mindshare agency, are working with a new standards for viewability that insists, well, that ads are really viewed by real human beings.
Come on! Let’s be reasonable.
The story, from AdAge.com, has a kind of uh-oh-bad-development tone I find a little puzzling, though I may be reading too much into it. The headline, “Will Unilever’s Higher Standards Jeopardize Industry Effort?” seems to suggest that by making some demands for viewability, Unilever and Mindshare are just confusing things mightily. “What if everbody thought the same way you do?” Yossarian was asked in a totally different context in Catch-22. But his answer makes sense: “Then I’d be a damn fool to think any different.”
According to the story, Unilever only considers an ad when all of it is viewable; when a user willingly clicks it to play; when at least half the ad plays, and when the sound is on. The industry standard is that only half of the video has to be in view, for at least two seconds.
Unilever's standard isn't really that stringent, said Ari Bluman, chief digital investment officer of WPP's GroupM. "What we're asking for is that we no longer want to buy ads that are not viewed by human beings."
All of that would sound perfectly reasonable to you in lots of other contexts: You pay for what you want. In fact, that’s not always true. You pay for cable TV and doubtless get channels you don’t want. You order restaurant food and are served side dishes you really don’t care about. You have lots of features on your car that you never asked for. But those are things you get you didn’t want, like autoplay ads. A tougher viewability standard like Unilever suggests is paying for what you really want, if you can get it.
Online isn't like TV or print, where things can't be counted so well. Online's analytics have a pretty good bead on everything, and the industry uses that to sell itself; it can't very well deny it when it comes to accounting for what people don't watch, too.
Unilever says publishers are agreeable. It’s not so easy for them not to be, with a company as big as Unilever. But why not be agreeable? As Rob Master, vice president of media for the Americas as Unilever, explains, there are 50 billion ads to bid on every day. He doesn’t note that most of those are on sites you wouldn’t want to be caught dead on, but the point is clear nonetheless: There is no real great scarcity in online advertising, most of the time, for most categories.
Besides, Unilever points out, weren’t the viewability standards the industry adopted just minimums? Why not demand more, if you can get away with it?