Both sides support the IAB's recommendation that broadband ad impressions only be counted when the ad's stream has been initiated by Web site visitors--a standard that makes online ads more accountable than TV ads, which are paid for whether viewers are sitting in front of their TVs or not.
"We as an industry are saying we're not going to count these ads until they start during the browsing experience," said Chris Young, CEO of the streaming video ad firm Klipmart. "Right there, that makes these ads far more accountable than TV when you don't even know if someone's in the room."
Christine Peterson, engagement specialist and media supervisor at Carat Fusion, said the new guidelines were more or less fair, but expressed frustration that they don't go far enough. Last year, Peterson and other executives floated the idea that the cost of online ads should be pro-rated; instead of paying a flat cost-per-impression fee regardless of whether viewers watched 5 seconds or 30, they wanted to just pay a fraction of the price if viewers shut off the ad after only a few seconds. For now, any notion of pro-rating payment obligations between media buyers and publishers is being overlooked.
"We made that demand [for pro-rating] last year, but it's clear that publishers won't stand for it," said Peterson. "If this definition of a stream is met, they're going to get paid for that impression."
But publishers and ad sellers say that pro-rating is unworkable. Additionally, they say, they shouldn't be penalized if the creative isn't strong enough to keep viewers' attention for the entire length of an ad.
"Abiding by these regulations, we're delivering our end of the bargain," said Matt Wasserlauf, CEO of Broadband Enterprises, an online video sales network. "My hope is that an ad will be good enough to engage consumers, but to penalize the publisher for not holding their attention is nonsense."
"Our job is to deliver the video," stressed Michael Barrett, executive vice president of worldwide sales, AOL Media Networks. "We're going into our third upfront for video, so we still have a lot to learn--and these guidelines really lend to the learning process--but everyone involved has to assume some of the business risk."
That a video ad only be counted once its stream has been initiated by a Web site visitor represents the height of industry accountability in the eyes of many rich media executives. "I applaud these guidelines," said Joe Apprendi, CEO of Falk North America. "Going any further than this--charging media buyers for every second that someone streams an ad--would create chaos from a measurement perspective and scare a lot of people away from online advertising."