Going Beyond Viewability

On Sept. 11, the 4As hosted a Town Hall on digital measurement, the centerpiece of which was the latest from the Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative.  The MRC presented an update on measurement standardization and covered viewability and beyond,all in keeping with the steps put forth by 3MS. 

The market is adapting and adopting the new standard and looking forward to what its institutionalization can bring.  What had once seemed like confusion over “opportunity to see” and the precise rationale for the viewable impression standard just a short time ago was conspicuously absent at this gathering.  Given the complexity of the issues, some items merit repetition:

  • Viewability is about the “opportunity to see.”  It is not about engagement or ad effectiveness.
  • Empirical analyses of billions of ad impressions are the basis for the viewability measurement standard.
    • For desktop display, when 50% of pixels rendered for one second, in 80% of cases the ads fully rendered.
    • For desktop video (based on observations of user actions related to the ad), the point between two and three seconds after initiation of the ad is when user activity became statistically significant.  With one billion video ad impressions used to generate these observations, clearly, the consumer activity levels that occurred within the two- to three-second band indicate that “opportunity to see” is occurring -- and that is the moment viewability seeks to measure.
    • Measurability rates are on the rise.  Still, it is important to remember that a non-measurable ad does not equal a non-viewable ad.
    • A non-viewable ad does not mean the ad is fraudulent.  Detection of fraudulent activity is essential to all good measurement of human behavior.
    • Viewability is the foundation for measurement transformation. The goal is that all media used for brand advertising have metrics that permit direct cross-platform comparisons.  The end game is that media can be planned, bought and evaluated using common metrics -- not viewability simply for the sake of viewability.
    • Transactions using viewable impressions as currency should be based on data provided by MRC-accredited measurement vendors.
    • Mobile viewability measurement is not yet standardized.  No measurement vendors are accredited by the MRC for the measurement of mobile ad impressions.

What's next? The Town Hall addressed this question, one that's most important as the marketplace coalesces around the viewability issue and sees past it.  Everyone reading this column should be aware of two critical activities that have launched, as well as of the recent update to the MRC Viewable Impression Standard.

Let’s start with the latter.  The updated guideline incorporates recommendations based on the latest round of reconciliation analyses conducted by the MRC. The reconciliation studies seek to identify causes of unacceptably high rates of variance across measurement vendors’ data (greater than plus or minus 10%).  As a result of the reconciliation studies, the MRC has put forth an updated guideline and is requiring accredited vendors to adopt the new processes within 60 days.  The definitions of a viewable desktop display and video impression remain the same.

Now for the two activities that are underway.  The MRC has launched a Mobile Viewability Standards Group, which follows the May 2015 release of MRC interim guidance on mobile viewability.  The MRC has also launched a group to develop GRPs for digital and cross-platform GRPs (a.k.a. audience-based currency). 

Without the long road we have traveled to define, refine and implement viewable desktop display and video impressions, we would not have the foundational core unit: a viewable ad impression that can be used as the backbone of a new era of digital and cross-platform media measurement.

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