Viewability In Focus At Leadership Meeting

The massive currency change that has come with the transition from a served impression standard to a viewable impression standard has sparked debates. There is no question that debates are constructive.  What is less constructive is confusion. Even worse is confusion created for the sake of controversy -- making for unnecessary marketplace turmoil.

The recent IAB Annual Leadership Meeting (Feb 8-10), attended by more than 1,100 executives, featured a number of conversations about viewability, including a Town Hall devoted to the subject. Over the course of high-level dialogue with stakeholders from the buy, sell and tech sides, it was clear that confusion persists. Clarifications were necessary:

  • It is unreasonable to expect 100% threshold of deliverability against viewable impressions at this stage in the evolution of measurement and technology.   We, the entire marketplace, all want every ad to be seen. Are we there yet?  No.
  • Viewability is not the ultimate goal of Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS).  Viewability, as defined by the MRC, is the core currency unit that will be built into the digital and cross-platform GRP standard.  Viewable digital ad impressions defined by a pixel and duration metric will permit equivalizing of exposure metrics across screens.
  • The standard for a viewable impression is the standard.  MRC, the IAB, the 4A’s and the ANA, along with our members, spent much time and effort (and money) to establish this agreed-upon standard.  Lost in the cacophony is the fact that empirical work is the underpinning of the standard. The MRC studied billions of brand ad impressions across many sites, finding that if ads rendered at 50% of pixels for one second and two seconds, respectively, for display desktop and video, then in 80% of cases the ads fully rendered.  In short, responsible practitioners wrote the standard using science, not conjecture.
  • Most of the agencies support the MRC standard.  And most are working with publishers to ensure mutually efficient data transparency for the purpose of tracking campaign viewability.
  • A non-viewable impression does not equal a fraudulent impression.
  • Fraud and viewability are separate problems that the industry is working on solving.  They each require separate solutions.  Fraud and viewability intersect when measurement vendors are required to filter out non-human traffic from measurement processes.  Filtering processes can alter viewability counts.  Filtering out non-human traffic is nothing new in the measurement science or business.  Consumer usage and behavior measurement is about humans.
  • A non-measurable impression does not equal a non-viewable impression.
  • Measurability and viewability are not the same.  Understanding this is especially important when trying to assess mobile ads.  As of yet, there is no standard for the measurement of mobile ad viewability.  There are methodological pitfalls in extrapolating desktop viewability and applying it to mobile. PERIOD.



The subject of Rising Stars formats also took the spotlight when we released research showing that these rich canvasses outperform legacy display units across a myriad of brand effectiveness measures. This also served as a reminder that conversations about Rising Stars ads and viewability have not been in the forefront -- but this topic is critical.

First off, it is vital to note that Display Rising Stars units were given a different viewability standard by the MRC and the industry, due to their larger size. Their standard is 30% of pixels for one continuous second.

Second, it is important to understand that any real challenge in balancing the Display Rising Stars with viewability concerns has to do with vendors’ inability to consistently measure them against the viewable standard. Ultimately it isn’t the Rising Stars but the measurement technology that vendors must improve.

Captivating creative -- now proven to be exceptionally effective for brand building -- cannot be excluded from media plans that require viewability.

Moreover, we need to cut through the confusion wherever it is, no matter how it started, and get to a marketplace that works toward the common goal of ensuring quality advertising that is viewable and measurable.

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