How Digital Video Can Achieve The TV Standard: Verification AND Viewability

The lines between what we watch on TV, desktop and mobile devices continue to blur, with audiences consuming video of ever-increasing quality at greater rates. So why does a massive gap remain between TV and digital video spending? The answer is simple: We’ve yet to standardize verification and viewability for video.

Marketers and agencies running digital videos anxiously chase the same standards that television uses to prove ROI. With so many chasing that same goal, though, it’s confusing to the supply- and demand-side players. In TV, the exchange provides value. With a standard system for evaluation, delivery and expectations are clear. The established measurement standards in that space define how all TV advertising is traded. Everyone is calling from the same playbook.

By comparison, the digital video advertising ecosystem is still evolving, and standards of quality assurance have yet to converge. If we want advertisers to get comfortable, trust the playbook and buy with us as they do with TV, we need to offer them a single standard.



So What’s Stopping Us?

As is the case with all emerging technologies, vendors and so-called experts flood the space. Each claims to have cracked the code, but the industry has not agreed on what that code should be. Whether it’s how long an ad must be seen in order to count, the type and size of player, or a multitude of other variables, each vendor has its own specific set of rules and regulations. AND to further cloud the scene, each vendor has its own technology to determine a rating/score. The big question is: What do demand partners really require? There needs to be an agreed-upon standard that is used to define value, rather than having demand- and supply-side partners choose which measurements suit them best and trying to drive that in the marketplace. This territorial noise is delaying standardization.

What’s Our Role in Getting to Standardization?

If we want to get to a level of standardization and clarity akin to TV’s, we’ve got to quiet the noise and standardize. I believe verification and viewability give us the opportunity to do so. For example, there’s an opportunity to raise the bar on formats. Just take a look at the multitude of video players online, and the way video ads are delivered. These intrinsic differences in display ads showcase the need for a new set of standards uniquely positioned for video, rather than simply recycling solutions designed for entirely different formats with the hope that they’re “good enough.” One of these attributes, for example, is the ability to deliver a TV-style ad experience with the targeting power of digital advertising. We must galvanize this notion of contextual video relevance and integrate it into these standards.

But how do we arrive at these standards?

  • Enable a governing body to establish standards that all parties in the ecosystem can agree upon. Not everyone will be fully satisfied, but we must all rally around something to begin this process.
  • Establish a consortium -- including supply- and demand-side participants -- to evaluate the evolution of the market and publish their findings on a quarterly basis.
  • Media agencies and brands should require quality assurance certification for every company included in a media plan before a single dollar is spent. This step has already begun to gain traction thanks in part to the IAB -- but the bottom line is, prohibiting money from flowing through the system is the best way to force the majority of participants to get on the same page.

We also must get honest about how damaging our disparate reporting can be to marketers and the agencies that support them. In the past, parties on both the supply and demand side have self-reported figures based on their own standards and models, resulting in haphazard methodologies and discrepant reporting. As can be expected in that kind of lawless environment, fraud and questionable practices seeped into the industry. So arriving at standards will boost the integrity of the entire digital ecosystem.

One set of standards for digital video will be the first step in enlightening buyers that there are multiple supply sources for high-quality audiences to enable effective and relevant video advertising. In fact, when you look at the integrated media plan today, standardization across screens -- digital video, desktop, mobile -- is the logical destination. We all must lean in, along with partners such as the AB and ANA, to help elevate the discussion of setting verification and viewability standards that work holistically for those in every segment of the digital video ecosystem.  Only then will we reach the TV-level potential we all know is within reach for digital video.  

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