Is there a more debated topic in advertising today than viewability? It reached a fever pitch at the recent IAB Leadership Forum, leading to even more heightened concerns for advertisers and publishers.
But what’s fueling this hysteria? And why now? Do we have a crisis on our hands? I think not. But it is indicative of how much our ad-tech capabilities have leapt forward and how quickly our business practices (both buy- and sell-side) need to catch up.
Viewability has always been the “elephant in the room” for advertising. We knew we couldn’t measure it, so we didn’t talk about it. But with digital advertising and third-party accredited measurement, we can talk about it now — so people sure are talking!
Let’s keep perspective. The challenge of viewability is not unique to digital. TV networks may claim 100% viewable advertising, but if there’s no one in the room or no one looking at the screen — and no way to measure any of this — it’s a bit hollow. Print and outdoor advertising are in the same boat.
With the introduction of the MRC standard for video viewability, we’ve made an important step in the right direction — even if not everyone accepts that standard. Perfection should be the ultimate goal, but let’s not minimize the fact that we are at a solid starting point and this will be an iterative process.
That said, I do think we need to clear up some of the confusion that in my view is hamstringing the industry and its stakeholders’ ability to walk before we can run.
Video viewability is different and more complex than display. Video and display ads are consumed differently and require unique solutions that take that into account. Put another way, a display ad appears, but a video ad plays — and with video viewability, we must take into account the action of the ad through this play, not just in the ad’s initial state.
100% viewable is available today. Marketers have choices when it comes to paying for and optimizing to viewability. They can accept the MRC standard of a viewable impression, create their own baseline for what’s tolerable, or opt for no less than 100% viewability. Then, as GroupM's Chief Digital Investment Officer, Ari Bluman, said at an event last month, “If you can get me a viewable ad that performs and I can verify that…I believe supply and demand will take over.” And that price may be higher.
Viewability is not the end goal for video; brand advertising effectiveness is. Viewability is an essential element of advertising that works, but it’s the means, not the end. The brand performance continuum goes from ad impression to ad completion to viewable ad to on-target demo — and finally, to effective ad. The latter is the true Holy Grail. Advertisers and publishers both seek advertising effectiveness.
Make no mistake about it: Debate is a good thing. Historically, differences of opinion have led to remarkable innovations. Why should advertising be any different?
I strongly believe that we will arrive at standards and tools that eventually put the debate to an end. And when we achieve that collectively, then we will have made video that much more measurable and effective.
When video ads work, they’re the most effective storytelling mechanism in the world. The best way to guarantee 100% viewability is to deliver ads that resonate with the person watching. Ads people love: a lofty but challenging goal.