How Evolving Viewability Standards Will Deliver Transparency

Kudos to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s global brand building officer, for putting the digital-advertising industry on notice regarding what he calls the “crap trap.” Beginning immediately, transparency is non-negotiable, and he intends to ensure P&G gets it via a four-point plan, which I was privileged to hear him describe last week at the Interactive  Advertising Bureau Leadership Summit.

His first two points concerned viewability, which intrigues me.

At its heart, viewability ensures that consumers have a chance to see the ads brands pay for, but it can’t guarantee the consumer will actually look at, much less engage, with them.

If this was a legal battle, we might say there’s a letter and spirit of the viewability standard. The letter is the technical definition of the standard (i.e., 50% of the creative in view for at least one full second). The spirit speaks to creating relevant experiences for both the consumer and the brand. Pritchard’s edict spurs the industry to work harder to meet the letter, but it’s the spirit we must strive for.

Marketers want impressions that can be seen, and it’s hard to find fault with that position. But does that mean publishers should expect no compensation for ads they load but aren’t viewed because the consumer clicked away? If, as some assert, up to 50% of all impressions are non-viewable, does that mean publishers must accept that only 50% of their inventory can be monetized?

We need to create a scenario that benefits everyone. To Rob Rasko, CEO of The 614 Group, a consultancy that advises premium publishers on viewability, the solution lies in optimizing the ecosystem. “There are huge volumes of ads that could be in view, if we can solve the time and context problems. Doing so will mean consumers spend more time on a page, and notice more ads,” he says.

Let’s start with time. Pages are cluttered with third-party pixels that hog browser CPU and mar the user experience. Can the industry eliminate some of them?

DigiTrust, a non-for-profit consortium of industry players (including GumGum) believes there is. According to DigiTrust, there are hundreds of third-party companies in the supply chain, each using its own cookie-based user identifier. For programmatic advertising to work, those user IDs must be synced each and every time a user lands on a page. DigiTrust wants to replace proprietary user IDs with a standard one, so only one pixel is fired. This means faster load times — and, consequently, more ads meeting that one-second requirement.

This fix speaks to the letter of viewability. What about the spirit?

The premise of viewability is that if consumers can see an ad, they may take the time to consider its message. The likelihood of that happening is driven by ad relevance because, as we all know, consumers have perfected the art of ignoring display ads.

Ads that are tightly associated with the content’s subject see much higher conversion rates. Last week Beyoncé issued a dramatic pregnancy announcement. What if P&G had inserted ads for diapers directly on or alongside that image? It’s hard to imagine a more noticeable advertising opportunity.

According to Caitlin Maddox-Smith at Ripple Foods, a plant-based dairy alternative company, “Highly viewable placements paired with the most relevant content are ultimately what get the consumers to engage with our ads and brand. We are more likely to grab attention serving next to a lactose-intolerant dessert guide than just any random recipe.”

The consumer has evolved, and folks like Pritchard are willing to invest in new creatives. It’s time for the ad-tech sector to do its part and rethink what’s possible.

1 comment about "How Evolving Viewability Standards Will Deliver Transparency".
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  1. Jeff Pugel from Essex Digital Platform, February 9, 2017 at 12:16 p.m.

    We have a saying around our office: "Viewability does not equal visibility." For instance you have a 728x90 at the top of the's there on the screen and counts as viewable but does anyone see it when they're looking for the content that's below it? What needs to happen is an education of the ecosystem by the players that know what they are taking about to their clients but unfortunately most of the players are just posers and can't talk intelligently about the space which gets us into these types of situations. Also these types of pontifications by P&G -might- be useful to P&G but that's it. It's typically not releveant nor beneficial for small and mid size players that are playing a different game than P&G. I think part of the solution is to stop the worship of P&G as the trendsetter as it's our opinion that the vast majority of what they are decreeing is actually detrimental to other companies yet the press leads us to believe what P&G says to be Gospel. We need more critical discourse like this....this is how you boil down these pontifications to their essence.

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