The (Mobile) Video Viewability Challenge

After many months of deliberation, the Media Rating Council has finally delivered their ruling on what counts as a viewable video impression on mobile devices. The guidelines are fairly similar to those currently implemented on desktop: 50% of pixels in view for two consecutive seconds. The main changes are the need for the ad to load before the viewability count starts, solving issues around signal and Internet speeds, and issuing new guidelines for image-based display ads in a newsfeed.

Inevitably there will be discussion about whether these guidelines go far enough. Should it be two seconds in view, or for the entire ad? GroupM, for example, is well known for taking a firm stance on viewability on behalf of its clients, requiring 100% of the video player to be in-view and 50% of the video to be viewed with sound on, while Nielsen has announced partnerships with all verification vendors to provide clients with the flexibility to determine viewability using different criteria.

While an agreement between all parties involved in delivering a campaign was all that was necessary to implement viewability standards on desktop, mobile has proven to be more difficult. In order to track viewability on mobile, the ad must be run using VPAID tags. VPAID allows ads to be interactive and permits third parties to run a tracking pixel on the ad, ensuring that it meets the agreed standards. Any advertising run using VPAID can easily be tracked, both in-app and on the mobile web.

The challenge the industry faces is that while VPAID makes up a large proportion of desktop inventory, it is not nearly so widely available on mobile. This means that for large campaigns, particularly where advertisers expect their ads to be run in specific publications, it becomes difficult to find the quantity of VPAID inventory required to be able to deliver the campaign in full.

Typically, this leads to only part of the inventory being VPAID and therefore trackable by third-party viewability verification companies. While these viewability figures can be extrapolated to extend over the entire campaign, it is not a particularly accurate form of verification. It is worth noting, however, that viewability on mobile campaigns is naturally high due to apps and sites on mobile Web being built without gutters or positions for ads to be able to autoplay out of sight.

The answer is to increase the amount of VPAID inventory available. This is largely dependent on the demand for trackable and interactive VPAID inventory being communicated efficiently to publishers. For publishers who create video content, a simple solution is to develop a VPAID-compliant video player in order to be able to serve VPAID pre-roll inventory. Other publishers should look to integrate a software development kit (SDK) that can provide the VPAID video player for them, or look to ad-tech providers to deliver a solution through their ad-serving platforms.

Tracking and transparency are a huge part of the benefits of digital advertising. Through data, brands have more control than ever over who sees their advertising and where adverts are placed. The current levels of VPAID inventory on mobile are limiting the usefulness of these characteristics, putting pressure on the industry as advertisers become concerned about whether their mobile advertising is delivering value. As soon as VPAID inventory on mobile is unlocked, the industry will be able to undergo a viewability revolution, with all campaigns able to prove they are meeting the required standards. When tracking does finally fall into place, it will boost trust in mobile advertising, underlining its position as a highly valuable marketing channel.

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