ComScore’s decision to make its viewability data free to all by the end of June is an interesting development. In making this move, comScore is helping advance the industry’s usage and understanding of viewability standards and measurement.
Brian Wieser, senior research analyst, Pivotal Research Group, put his own spin on the announcement in a research note, asserting that the news “has potentially significant implications for comScore, Nielsen and much of the digital advertising eco-system including Google and Facebook, and appears to us as an important topic to monitor.”
Why? Maybe because there have been so many different benchmarks for viewability advanced by various stakeholders. Viewability means different things depending on who you talk to: agency people, advertisers, ad-tech companies, etc.
Viewability, Wieser points out, has become critical as advertisers discovered that the majority of their digital advertising was running "‘below the fold,’ scrolled by too fast to be seen or otherwise not viewed by humans.”
Vendors providing data about viewability include Moat, which was recently gobbled up by Oracle, Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify, and comScore. With this kind of data in high demand, one wonders which provider will be snapped up next.
Nielsen’s viewability product, Wieser notes, is favored by advertisers that want to buy video in a holistic manner, while advertisers that generally buy digital advertising holistically may prefer comScore. Wieser surmises that Nielsen is most likely used more for digital video, while comScore may be used more for non-video. Video advertising is growing faster than other forms of display advertising.
Wieser notes that Nielsen reported 50% growth in campaigns using its viewability product in Q1, up from a 31% increase in Q4 2016. In addition, Nielsen enables viewability tools by integrating with Moat, IAS, and DoubleVerify rather than providing those tools directly as comScore does.
Wieser’s note indicated that he’s still evaluating comScore’s news, but that on first glance, at a minimum, the decision is likely to help comScore take market share away from Nielsen. “Whether or not Nielsen’s DAR product is of higher quality than [comScore’s] vCE is less relevant than the price, as long as the audience measurement product is sufficiently good. Given marketer interests in reducing costs across their digital supply chains, making viewability a free product is compelling.”
The implications for digital media sellers, at least in Wieser's view, is that more digital advertising will be bought using viewability metrics in the near future. And while “viewability is far from the only metric that brand-focused advertisers use to place their buys, a further shift in this direction is incrementally negative for Facebook, where viewability is generally very low. By contrast, Google’s YouTube – even if its content is not always considered to be ‘premium’ – generally has relatively high viewability rates,” Wieser wrote.