What About TV Viewability? Q&A With TVision's Luke McGuinness

Viewability is a challenge for many forms of visual media. How do we really know if a piece of content is seen? “IPG recognized that the industry had never effectively measured TV viewability,” explained Luke McGuinness, president of TVision. “Ads are bought and sold on the assumption of 100% viewability — but that assumption is false.” He should know, since his company tracks a range of television consumption behavior. 

IPG MAGNA recently released a TV viewability study using TVision data. The study noted that regardless of device, viewability indicates whether an ad has the opportunity to be seen but it does not guarantee that a viewer has actually seen the ad or whether that ad is effective.

Charlene Weisler: What prompted the study?

Luke McGuinness: More than $59 billion will be spent on TV ads in 2019, without knowing if the ads are viewable. IPG sought to quantify TV viewability so that TV advertising could be measured in a manner similar to digital.  



Weisler: What are its implications?

McGuinness: The study from IPG Media Labs, using TVision data, found that 29% of all TV ads are not viewable. That means they air to an empty room. When we think about the $59 billion (or more depending on the source), ads that air to an empty room are costing advertisers quite a large sum. By evaluating TV for viewability, advertisers can determine what is working, what is not, and optimize for better performance, and therefore substantially reduce ad waste.

Weisler: Please give me an overview of the methodology.

McGuinness: IPG reviewed six months of TVision data, tracking 5,388 individuals in a nationally representative panel, tracking 39,464 hours of ads for households, 2,992,414 unique ads, 5,961,757 impressions, persons 2+ and C3. Programming and ads were captured via ACR (automatic content recognition). Participants opted to install TV viewability detection technology in their household. Viewability and attention were measured by using computer vision algorithms.

Weisler: Would you say that the results show that TV and digital are comparable in delivering ad messaging? What are the differences that you found?

McGuinness: The fact that the size of the viewability issue for TV very closely mirrors digital video shows that the two face similar (29% for TV; 31% for digital video) challenges in delivering ad messaging, but there are some natural differences in viewability for TV and digital. And these differences are rooted in the fact that digital video on PC and mobile are inherently different experiences. 

With digital, it is presumed that the consumer is there because of the nature of the medium. Someone just clicked to watch a video. As we all know, TV is very different. People leave the room or even leave the home with the TV on.  

Weisler: What is your recommended course of action to improve ad delivery and consumption?

McGuinness: The best step forward for brands is to measure what’s working or not for their historical TV advertising, benchmark versus competitors’ performance, plan a more effective strategy along with their existing planning tools, and measure and optimize on an ongoing basis. By using TVision viewability and attention data, combined with other data such as cost and ratings data, brands can identify higher performing opportunities. For example, the study suggests that brands can find value by buying ad spots outside of prime, and outside of the first spot in the pod. 

Weisler: What about pod position?

McGuinness: In general, the first position in an ad pod may not be worth a premium. Ads appearing first in a pod had 72.2% viewability. Ads in the middle of the pod had 70.3% and those at the end of the pod had 69.9%. Longer ads have higher viewability but doubling the length of an ad does not double the viewability, so the cost of longer ads must be considered.

Weisler: What are next steps?

McGuinness: The immediate next steps are for advertisers and networks to incorporate viewability into their ad buying and selling — and many have already started to do so. They can do this by analyzing their historical performance for viewability, analyzing their competitors’ performance, and learning from that. 

3 comments about "What About TV Viewability? Q&A With TVision's Luke McGuinness".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 22, 2019 at 7:26 a.m.

    Charlene, as you may know, I'm a big supporter of TVision and the need to add an "eyes-on-screen" measurement to Nielsen's ratings. My basic problem is  defining who is a program "viewer". At least the Nielsen system asks panelists whether they, themselves, are "watching" a show when the channel offering that show is selected. As TVision does not have this capability, it uses presence in the room as a surrogate for "viewing". I happen to believe that this overstates the base "audience" level as some people may  just  be passing through or pausing for a few moments---but not really "watching"---which, naturally, overstates the absent- from- the- room factor. I may be wrong on this and I hope that TVision will do some research to investigate the matter as, eventually, it will come up and will need to be dealt with. I do agree, however, that a significant percentage of "viewers" are absent when an average commercial is on the screen, the only question being, the percentage---is it usually   around 15%---or 29%?

  2. Jonathan Kriner from TVision replied, August 22, 2019 at 9:29 a.m.

    Hi Ed, thanks for your support and great question. For this research, and for our measurement in general, a viewer is not considered "watching" a show unless the TV has been tuned to content for at least 5 minutes, and each viewer is in the room for at least 2 minutes. It's one of the benefits of measuring at the second-level. We agree that someone just passing through shouldn't be counted in the denominator of "total impressions". 

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, August 23, 2019 at 3:23 a.m.

    Some comments and thought starters.

    First, viewability <> viewing.   Viewability is when content (or an ad) is capable of being viewed.   Viewing is the actual visual act.   It amazes me how many people use 'viewability' as a proxy for viewing.   Viewability must always exceed viewing (you can't see what is not viewable, but you can not see something that is viewable.)

    Second, viewing can be expressed in many ways ... viewed any of, viewed all of , viewed part of.   TV uses average minute audience, because for an ad buyer that nunber will be the closest approximation of the likely audience to an ad.

    Third, I note that while the panel is nationally representative, the study was based on "Participants opted to install TV viewability detection technology in their household."   I strongly doubt that these would be typical households.   They are still representative of some cohort ... probably something along the lines of 'high-tech households'.   In essence the results are more likely to be the high-water mark.

    Fourth, the commercial terms regardinf advertising spend and placement needs to be taken into account.   Think of the most rubbish ad you can recall.   How did, and how do, you react?   Switch channels?   Leave the room?   A coffeee or nature break?   Scream loudly as you closed your eyes for 30 seconds?   In such scenarios, why should a media owner have to compensate an advertiser for having such a crappy ad?   TV networks spend millions to make their content to attract as many viewers as possible, but an el-cheapa ad can easily lose 10%-15% of that audience in seconds (and want a refund!).

    If as much thinking and energy went into making better ads there would be less of a problem.

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