Is The AOP Being Softer On Viewability?

The soundings coming from the AOP suggested they were leading up to an announcement on better advertising, and today we have confirmation from its Inside Out event in London. The online publishing industry body has unveiled an Ad Quality Charter that it is encouraging publishers to sign up to so they can shine out as providing validated, premium inventory.

Publishers are being asked to provide brand safety through signing up and being verified independently against the Digital Trading Standards Group best practice principles, to use tools to verify all impressions and white- and blacklist traffic sources as deemed necessary by advertising groups and the police. For fraud, publishers are being asked to do much the same through being verified by tools accredited by JICWEBS.

The third obvious area of focus that you would expect is, of course, viewability. It's here that the AOP asks publishers to uphold minimum standards and to actually strive to beat them by aiming to make 100% of an ad's pixels viewable for a second, not 50%. There is also a commitment to measure viewability around bespoke definitions according to agencies and advertisers requirements and to seek to optimise placements to ensure they are viewable.

I'm not sure about you guys, but we seem to trail off a bit from being measured and verifiable responsibilities on brand safety and fraud to a more general aims-orientated approach with viewability.

Put it this way -- there is another part to the AOP's Ad Quality Charter. Ads should only be charged for when they offer verifiable brand safety and fraud guarantees. If inventory falls short of these standards -- if it's not placed against safe copy or ends up being seen by a bot and not a person -- rebates should be offered. 

With viewability, however, there is no such insistence in the Charter. It's a surprise, considering that this will roughly impact around a half of all ads, Meetrics figures suggest. Programmatic adoption has consistently given the UK viewability rates that are much lower than the rest of Western Europe -- hovering around the 50% to 52% mark. Aside from the potential risk of machine trading, other markets demand better viewability rates by agencies and advertisers only paying for viewable inventory, which tends to focus a publisher's mind on ensuring that ad space can be seen for at least the minimum standard.

So I asked the AOP why this was the case. Its Managing Director Richard Reeves provided this statement.

“Publishers have tools that enable controls on fraud and brand safety. Viewability - a subjective topic – has no consistent or agreed common standard. This, coupled with a concern around reporting variants and inconsistencies with the supply of ad quality – which publishers don’t currently control or have any notable levels of support as would be required from the buy side and their creative agencies – can create latency and impact viewability.

“In reality, given that most campaigns are tracked and therefore paid-for based on the buyers own third-party verification tools, there is in effect already a form of rebate capability in place.”

The response, then, is that verification isn't possible because there isn't an accepted standard.  But check out viewability on the IAB UK website and the industry body references the JICWEBS standard and the seven organisations that are certified by ABC to verify viewability.

On the second AOP point, you could say the same for brand safety and fraud. These could be tracked by advertisers via third-party tools already, so there is no need for the AOP to make reimbursements a commitment for those signing up to its Charter. Yet they're in there. 

I guess it's one that people will have to make their minds up on. You may come to a different conclusion but, for me, it's great that the AOP is focussing minds on brand safety, fraud and viewability, but odd that two of the three come with a clause requiring rebates. Could the issue be that publishers have more control over brand safety and fraud, which are comparatively smaller issues?

If they committed members to viewability rebates and the estimates of half of ads being unviewable were true, that would be one heck of a lot of rebates. 

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