Measuring 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 Media Labs recently released a TV Viewability study using TVision data. 

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 the study’s implications?



McGuinness: The study 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) [of TV ad spend], ads that air to an empty room are costing advertisers quite a large sum.

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 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 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.

These differences are rooted in the fact that [watching] 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.  

The way we measure viewability for TV delivers the same value proposition: investing in an ad strategy that will deliver an opportunity for people to see the ads. The methodology is different, given that are different mediums, but the value proposition is consistent.  

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

McGuinness: TV’s viewability challenge lacks uniformity. It is not limited to specific networks, times of day, programs or content types. And while viewability varies across industries, no advertiser is immune. 

Every brand can improve their return on ad spend with this data. 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.  Additionally, they’re leveraging broader planning data from TVision to best optimize their campaigns, and they are now measuring their specific performance on an ongoing basis.

2 comments about "Measuring TV Viewability: Q&A With TVision's Luke McGuinness".
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  1. Gary milner from The Simpler Way, October 18, 2019 at 11:59 a.m.

    So if an advertiser isnt measuring frequency on cheap cpm pay TV buys. Then the combo of excess frequency and 30 per cent non viewable drives the ecpm way up? 

    Thoughts anyone?

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 18, 2019 at 1:14 p.m.

    Gary, "excess frequency" has little to do with effective CPMs as each "impression" costs the same whether it's the first or the last of many, assuming that all buys are made in the same medium and are rotated across all of its venues. The real point is whether the "audience" data tells you that the person actually "saw", "read" or heard" the ad message. Here, every medium is suspect--TV, radio, print and digital. In the case of TV, an average CPM for all persons aged 2+ is around $17 but as only half of the reported "audience" probably notes the average commercial and has a chance to get its message, the effective CPM is roughly double the normally calculated CPM. The same is true for ads of varying lengths, sizes, etc. in varying ad clutter situations and involving or not so involing editorial environments for all media.

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