How Do You Solve A Viewability Problem Like Success?

As the summer blockbusters are advertised widely, the public are unwittingly bearing witness to one of digital advertising's big conundrums -- how do you measure success?

To be honest, it wasn't until I chewed the fat with the IAB recently that i realised there was a major new issue, but when you think about it, it's completely understandable. The big moviehouses offering the likes of "Finding Dory" and the latest Harry Potter film want to cause a big splash for the all-important opening weekend and they will typically go for page takeovers. The same is true of brands associated with the Olympics at Friday's opening ceremony.

The trouble is that it's very hard to measure viewability on takeovers because they take up so much of the screen and because home pages are getting longer and longer. Some national newspapers, for example, are taking the mobile revolution to heart and having everything on a very long home page, meaning that you would have to scroll down two or three screens worth of content to expose 50% of a takeover and have it seen as viewable. The trouble is of course, you know exactly what the ad is advertising because there's typically a banner and a pair of skyscrapers that get over the message as they dominate the first, main screen. But by only dominating that first screen, when there are another three or four below it, viewability may only be seen as hitting a quarter or a third and not the required 50%.

So the IAB is working on an amendment that will allow a more sensible measurement of takeovers. One idea is to measure a part of the takeover rather than the whole thing so the part which tells you the important stuff, typically a movie opens this Friday, is measured and not the long tails at the side that stretch down to the bottom of a long home page and bring down the overall viewability percentage. 

The IAB is hoping this will soon be resolved and so it's worth mentioning not just because it's an issue that publishers, agencies and brands need to see resolved but because of its wider implications. Viewability is a hot topic right now but it's never quite as simple as you might imagine.

As new ad units are brought in and publishers amend pages to accept them and to also fit in with the long home pages made more popular through mobile browsing, a complicated field become even more complicated. But at least this is an example of a caveat that is being explored and likely to see an amendment added to the viewability standard to ensure that when the big sites tell you which movie to go and see at the weekend, they get paid and they are not staring at campaign reports and having some confused conversations with agencies and their clients.

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