The Interactive Advertising Bureau says in a new report that achieving 100% viewability is “currently unreasonable,” but recommends “that in this year of transition, measured impressions be held to a 70% viewability threshold.”
The “State of Viewability Transaction 2015,” out now, recommends that agencies should issue make-goods until an advertiser’s campaign hits that mark. All the make-goods should be in the currency of viewable impressions that continue until the measured impressions hits that 70% standard — not just simply be settled with cash payments.
“It’s time to set the record straight about what is technically and commercially feasible, in order to get ourselves on an effective road to 100% viewability and greater accountability for digital media,” stated Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the IAB.
The “unreasonable” tag comes from an earlier report from the Media Rating Council, which in October said that it is “unreasonable for advertisers, agencies and publishers implementing viewable impressions as measurement currency to expect to observe viewable rates of 100% in analyses of their campaigns.”
Rothenberg’s statement attempts to explain why, and the answer isn't surprising: “Because, different ad units, browsers, ad placements, vendors and measurement methodologies yield wildly different viewability numbers.”
Right now, by various estimates, including the IAB’s, viewability rates range in the 30% to 40% area, and the issue is obviously seen as an impediment to online’s ability to credibly promote the effectiveness of online advertising.
The IAB statement applauds the collaboration between itself, the ANA and the 4As to bring about a “historic change in advertising measurement” and urges interested parties—from ad tech companies to publishers to ad agencies—to work out a viewability solution.
That 70%-is-OK stance is in contrast to a deal ad giant Group M made with Conde Nast last month, in which Group M would only pay for ads that were totally viewable.
Without mentioning either entity, Rothenberg’s printed statement continues: “Publishers, agencies, marketers, and ad tech companies can resolve these differences by working collaboratively to make measurement make sense. We won’t do it by holding guns to each others’ heads.”
But at the time of the Conde Nast deal, GroupM Chief Digital Investment Officer Ari Bluman said he would be trying to leverage more arrangements like it on the same terms, to reduce non-viewable and “non-human” advertising inventory. He also threatened to pull all of Group M’s business out of the real-time bidding marketplace by the end of the year if similar guarantees weren’t forthcoming.
In the report, the IAB says pushing for 100% viewability now is counter-productive.
“Vendors simply cannot measure viewability in 100% of all cases at present,” the report argues. “While this will improve over time, it is actually detrimental to the efficacy of a media plan to expect ‘100% viewable impression’ delivery in 2015. This is because only inventory that can be measured by today’s tools will be used. Many high impact placements are still not consistently measurable. The inconsistency applies to page takeovers, road blocks and other custom placements. In addition to technical improvements, the industry still needs to codify handling of custom placements in the measurement standard.”
Today’s IAB report urges seven immediate steps, beginning with the suggestion that all billing continue to be based on the number of served impressions during a campaign separated into measured and non-measured categories.
It also notes: “A buyer and a seller should agree on a single measurement vendor ahead of time. The industry aspires to variances of no more than 10% between viewability measures provided by different vendors. All stakeholders must avoid costly, labor-intensive, error-prone manual processes of reconciling different sets of viewability numbers, hence the benefits of agreeing on a single vendor.”Some publishers, or their advertising arms, argue that advertisers often use sometimes wildly conflicting viewability reports to leverage lower prices for their served ads; advertisers presumably have the same complaint in reverse.