WPP And Unilever Video Woes Mean Human Viewability Metrics Are A Must

Is the worm turning? After viewability being an issue that ad tech people talked a lot about, have we reached a stage where it's a fundamental issue that captains of the industry and brand leaders now have high on their agenda? It would certainly appear so, given that video is now playing a more major role as a display medium, leading WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell to criticise Facebook video viewability at the Dmexco conference in Germany this week where Unilever's vice president of global media innovation has similarly slammed the industry-wide two second viewability rule.

Perhaps it was because Dmexco was taking place this week, or perhaps it is because the press tends to listen to well-known marketers and then follow them, but I was surprised a qualitative study from InSkin Media and FaR Partners in to viewability wasn't more widely picked up yesterday and today. Okay -- so it comes from a vendor and features in-depth interviews with just 20 senior marketers, and you have to remember, caution must be applied that findings aren't completely aligned to discovering a need for what the company does. However, it does make some interesting reading, and will be presented and discussed at Dmexco today.

The big takeaway is that only just over a third of senior agency and publisher executives think the IAB's guideline of a half of a display ad being seen for a second makes it viewable is worthwhile and that there is an overwhelming desire among brands to get viewability measured more consistently. In fact, InSkin Media, which specialises in non-standard ad units, ran a trial of various viewability vendors which reported viewability rates which ranged from 5% to 85%.

It would appear that marketing and publishing executives are resigned to the current state of affairs, with the majority believing that we will never reach a stage where campaigns are bought on a viewable basis, although four in five are glad there's a debate around viewability because it leads to better discussions around engagement metrics for all online advertising channels.

Clearly, then, brands are not only concerned by viewability, but also in the inability for tech companies to measure consistently and effectively.

The ad tech guys usually have a reason for this, claiming it is because some vendors will take out click fraud too. This would seem to make a lot of sense because a CMO doesn't only want to know if an ad could be seen on a screen, they want to know it's on a site that is being viewed by real people and not just computers programmed by fraudsters.

So why not make a new metric around this? The first half of the equation is whether the pixels appear above the fold of the screen -- and, I have to be honest, I've never really seen the point of a metric that requires only half of an ad to be viewable for just a second. It's hardly setting the bar high, is it? And two seconds for a video? Well, brand leaders are making clear what they think of that, particularly given the complications around "auto play" on Facebook.

With perhaps a more exacting standard as a starting point, would it not be sensible to then add on to the word viewable a "by a human." This could then lead to a far more useful click-through measurement too by adding that not only was an ad viewable to humans but it was clicked on by a human, and not a bot. Maybe for video an extra measurement for "heard by a human" could be added to "viewable by a human" to ensure a consumer didn't scroll past it in their news feed but took the effort to click on it. 

What's clear is that, as WPP is starting to do, if industry benchmarks don't get higher and more aligned with what brands need, agencies will simply make their own metrics and it will even more confusing for CMOs to measure campaigns, particularly if they are run through different agencies using different technology partners.

1 comment about "WPP And Unilever Video Woes Mean Human Viewability Metrics Are A Must".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 17, 2015 at 9:42 a.m.

    A very good take on a really great problem that's beging to be addressed properly, Sean.

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