The Eye Of The Beholder (This One's A Beaut!)

It’s been awhile since we checked in with the team at independent trading desk Accordant Media, so I was delighted when Founder-CEO Art Muldoon offered a scoop on their third-quarter marketplace report. It doesn’t make up for raiding former Real-Time Daily Editor Tyler Loechner, but we’ll take our scoops anywhere they come from. Seriously, the report has some key insights.

You can read about the main one here, but the other big one comes from Accordant’s “spotlight” on “viewability.” Yeah, I know that sounds redundant, but the sidebar really does shed light on the subject.

Basically, According conducted a side-by-side analysis of four Media Rating Council accredited viewability measurement firms. The Accordant team, being the gentlemen and gentle ladies they are, didn’t name names, but anyone checking the MRC’s accreditation roster would find that they include comScore, DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science and Moat.

It’s not news that they each utilize different methods that produce different results, but the Accordant analysis sought to control for that with as many apples-to-apples as possible. The result looks more like fruit salad.

Basically, Accordant controlled by comparing the four vendors results against the same exact impressions rendered in actual real-time market trading. The result: Overall, the vendors only agreed on viewable impressions about 30% of the time, and when evaluating them based on the same exact impression, they only agreed 3.2% of the time.

While that’s not exactly an indictment on each vendor’s methods or accuracy, it does point out that viewability is still very much in the eye of the beholder.

Aside from creating marketplace confusion, Muldoon suggests it could also lead to some marketplace distortions, because the compunction of the supply-side -- and even some of those on the demand-side -- is to utilize the metric that indexes the highest, not necessarily because it is the best. That’s always been true of media measurement, whether it was the battle over Nielsen and Arbitron local TV ratings or MRI and Simmons magazine audience estimates decades ago. If you’re selling based on numbers, why wouldn’t you use the vendor that reports the highest ones?

Why people on the demand-side would do that raises potentially even bigger industry issues that I don’t really want to go into detail about in this column, though I’ve written about it before. And that has to do with how people on the demand-side -- agencies, traders, even people inside client marketing organizations -- are rewarded for procuring media. Sometimes, it’s just about the numbers, not what they actually represent.
So I can only guess who “Vendor 2” is in Accordant’s spotlight chart, but I’m going to venture that in terms of viewability measurement market share, they also index the highest.

4 comments about "The Eye Of The Beholder (This One's A Beaut!)".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, October 29, 2015 at 10:35 a.m.

    Fantastic insight delivered in plain language -- great scoop Joe.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 29, 2015 at 10:56 a.m.

    Sobering info, Joe. But, I wonder about the actual extent of the differences? For example, one methodology may find "viewable" ads only 30% of the time while another does so 65% of the time. Fair enough. But what if the average difference---as measured in seconds on screen---is only 5% compared to 45%? It would be really interesting to see such a comparison.

  3. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, October 29, 2015 at 11:21 a.m.

    Why buyers would want the highest number of viewable impressions is the biggest issue. The ability to claim delivery of the most viewable impressions might seem to be the desired end result and show that one buying system or agency does it better.

    But the end result is not even the validity of what is considered viewable. Accurate media delivery is only a metric of media performance, not business performance. Is there any business result at all? I'll take a correlation.

  4. Bob Gordon from The Auto Channel, October 29, 2015 at 11:28 a.m.

    viewability, more bull from the children who bring you digital CPM's...

    relevant advertiisng delivered to a welcoming audience is always viewed... always..

    to make more ads viewable, pay publishers realistic cpms so they we can reduce the ad clutter and do the right thing for the viewer advertiser and what's the problem?  

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