It's hardly revolutionary, but it does at least make a lot of sense. GroupM is now offering its major clients 100% of pixels being visible for a second or more. This doubles the industry standard set by the IAB for 50% of pixels to be seen for a second. From now on, the likes of Unilever, Volvo Cars, Shell and Subway will only pay for messages that have been completely visible.
The 50% standard has always caused a lot of concern among advertisers and quite a lot of derision. When I ask senior marketers about viewability, their response is usually based around the same concept. How would you feel if you paid for a tv ad and only half the screen displayed a part of your message? What would you think of a bar where only half its neon sign is lit up?
You get the idea. Marketers have effectively been calling out the IAB standard for being such a low hurdle that it is almost meaningless.
In defence of the IAB UK -- which I have spoken to many times over this -- there is a general feeling that they are the referee, and can only set a standard that both sides of the ad equation are happy with. When I talk with senior executives there, they always hold their hands up to the standard not being exacting enough, and are genuinely surprised there has not been more pressure to increase it.
Well, what do you know. Following on from WPP announcing disappointing results and revising growth forecasts down, along comes a revised standard from GroupM. Discussions obviously began long before last week's announcement, but it would be a stretch to imagine that WPP didn't know which way the wind has been blowing over the past couple of years.
Unilever -- one of its key clients -- has been very vocal on the need for improved transparency and better viewability. A conference has not gone by without a major brand, such as Unilever, P&G or Mondelez, revealing that they want a better working relationship with their agencies -- that they want to know they are getting what they pay for. And by the way, they are expecting to work with fewer agencies and spend less, hopefully to achieve more.
To be very blunt, the big spenders want budgets to go further -- and they don't want to be laughed out of town when it is revealed that at least in the UK, half of their ads don't even stand a chance of being viewed.
So GroupM deserves a round of applause for coming up with a metric that at least ensures a message is entirely seen for at least a second, and for putting together the team that will verify this has happened.
The media giant is also looking at video viewability, so we can probably expect an announcement about this soon.
The IAB UK was always up front about agencies and brands needing to push the issue if the viewability threshold was to be increased, and that's exactly what has happened here.
I think we can confidently predict that 100% of pixels appearing for a second is a new de facto standard in waiting that will be ratified over the next year or two. Rivals can't allow GroupM to offer a superior standard without at least matching it.
But let's not forget the bigger picture. Brands are pushing the agenda on viewability and transparency, and without their action, I wouldn't be surprised if today's announcement would not have been made.
For now, a major agency feels it is necessary to go above and beyond to keep its key clients. That can only be good for all involved.