Nowhere is the need for ad tech's maturation more clear than with viewability, one of the key metrics for all stakeholders in our ecosystem. In fact, some in the industry still insist that publishers and brands deliver 100% of impressions, 100% in view, 100% of the time." Before we can even discuss “flawless viewability,” we need to change the way we define the concept. To do this, we’d do well to consider three areas in which progress is sorely needed.
Improve Measurement Accuracy
In every campaign I’ve seen where third-party verification companies track ads for viewability, there has never been an instance where all impressions were measurable and thus verifiable. The impressions may well be viewable, but if the technology can’t measure it, then no one knows. Anywhere from 20% to 50% of campaign impressions can’t be measured for viewability. The digital advertising industry has grown much faster than the technology needed to accurately measure its delivery.
Take, for example, the way that we process video ad requests—most of which are more than a simple video file. Displaying video often requires iframes. These iframes can become embedded in other iframes, a reality that is the result of the ‘daisy-chain’ effect of our RTB connected ecosystem. The obvious problem here is one of attribution and measurement. How is an iframe embedded in another iframe measured when multiple inventory sources are at play?
Moreover, even in cases where different certified viewability vendors measure the same inventory, results may vary. A site can be measured by three different third-party vendors on behalf of three different client campaigns. Even though all three third-party vendors are certified to measure viewability, they can each report drastically different results
Before we talk about absolute viewability, we must first develop the tools to measure viewability accurately.
Reconsider Who Is Responsible
Publishers are ultimately responsible for providing the human traffic that is of value to marketers. And while all of this is true, these points about publisher responsibility relate more closely to discussions of fraud then they do viewability. That’s because viewability is a different beast. And if we’re being honest, responsibility for achieving viewability is distributed between publisher and marketer.
The varying responsibilities can easily be understood when we consider the current Media Rating Council (MRC) standards for viewability:
· Video advertisement must be at least 50% in view: Of the current standards, this is clearly the one publishers must account for. If a video ad is played on a part of the page a consumer can’t even see—for example, below the fold—this is a disservice to marketers whose message isn’t being viewed by users.
· Video must be played for at least two seconds:This type of engagement can’t be a publisher’s sole responsibility. Content must be attractive enough for consumers to stay through the ad. And marketers, on their end, need to do more than port 30-second television spots into online video.
· Video ad must be playing on an active tab:We’ve all done it. You go to watch the latest “Daily Show” clip, and when a 30-second ad pops up before enjoying the comedy, you immediately open another tab until Jon Stewart comes on. This is a user behavior that neither marketer nor publisher can control; both have to be taken into account.
What, then, to do about our standards? Marketers and publishers need to work more closely together to make sure a viewability standard is assessed by efforts on both sides. Marketers could also pare down their definition of viewability to actions that can be controlled by publishers. Otherwise, the current standard will leave both sides exhausted, and unable to secure 100% viewability.
Augment The Current Standard
There is, however, another option.
The industry can agree that the current standard is not working for either publishers or advertisers. My proposal: implement a new standard by which 100% of ad pixels must be in view at the time of ad load. Advertisers can be assured there is the opportunity for their (entire) ad to be seen, while eliminating the behavioral aspects of the two seconds and the active tab requirements, effectively alleviating the need for publishers to control user behavior.
Only then will the industry have a chance of transacting at the dream of 100% viewability instead of the IAB recommended 70%.