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Mobile Video Ads: Viewability In Eye Of The Beholder

Viewability is a major priority in all digital advertising today, but nowhere is this more challenging than in the world of in-app mobile video advertising. Challenges with technology, tracking, lack of standardization and different opinions abound. As the industry slowly converges on a common set of performance standards, the question we face as advertisers and media partners is how to gauge success in the meantime. The answer to this question lies in getting clear and educated about what we can and can’t measure, and how we define campaign-by-campaign success measures around which all parties can feel confident.

Measuring up. Recently, in conjunction with the IAB, the Media Rating Council (MRC) issued an update stating that 100% video viewability measurement is “unreasonable” across all platforms due to current limitations. According to Google, Web-only mobile video ads are 83% viewable. Adhering to the standard threshold of viewability for mobile video in-app is even more difficult due to the walled-off in-app video player environments. Thus, without well-defined standards, the best approach before beginning a mobile video ad campaign is to first agree upon specific metrics and  understand precisely how they impact your KPIs.  

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Setting the bar. In the absence of a common definition of viewability for mobile video ads, there are divergent approaches. To illustrate the divergence, let’s compare the measurement offerings from two leaders in the space: Integral Ad Science (IAS) and Moat.

IAS’ solution claims to listen for signals within an app to determine if an ad contained is in view. Metrics include the average time in view, average time on screen, percentage of ad in view at “page open” and percentage of ads that are completed out of view.

For Moat, advertisers can optimize their in-stream mobile video campaigns based on “50+ metrics that matter.” These metrics include in-view impressions, in-view time, interaction time and number of user interactions.

Sure, there is some overlap between these measurement points or categories with both parties, but both also track metrics with great variance. The mechanics of the metric matter.

Go under the hood. Once you have a handle on what is being measured, it is essential to understand how to establish the metric. For mobile video, make sure you understand the behavior of the video player that will serve your ads, and then assure that the VAST tag in place truly can prove “completion rate.” As the arms race to viewability continues, many will make inaccurate claims, which leads to a lot of misinformation and even more confusion.

Start early. Finally, make sure that reporting for your campaigns runs early and often. That way, there is time to course-correct by having open conversations, discussing performance with the technology and analytics providers who can give you real insights and actionable tactics to improve viewability.

Get on the same page. The lesson here is that you need to understand what your selected measurement platform and media partners do and do not measure or track, in detail. There are many instances where business claims and actual technology don’t match — a scenario that creates a large disconnect between the data being reported and the reality regarding what is truly measurable.

The Future of Viewability
Right now, without standards that universally govern measurement of video viewability on mobile, especially in-app, advertisers need to be vigilant about defining their own set of rules in advance. The good news is that this will not last forever. The MRC and IAB are working to set guidelines for viewability; latest estimates indicate that mobile video guidelines will be issued by the end of Q3 of this year. Additionally, advancements in third-party technology tracking platforms and media providers will help carry the charge forward. Aiming for transparency and accountability for metrics for viewability is a continued effort, and the industry has been getting closer to that goal with each passing innovation.

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