Viewability Standardization: Challenges and Solutions

Viewability is a big buzz word in online media these days. It’s an important and logical issue, to be sure; why would advertisers or media buyers want to pay for ads that don’t actually get seen?

An article in Digiday points out several issues when confronting a transition from the current model to one where publishers are fully accountable for viewable impressions:

1. The current technology for verifing viewable impressions is not mature enough. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) and the IAB have even recommended that companies do not base all work on a viewability basis just yet because of this (though it is worth testing on a case-by-case basis_.

2. The lack of viewability is allegedly already factored into pricing; publishers do not guarantee viewability currently and advertisers/agencies do not want their CPMs to increase.

3. Related to the above point, agencies already take wasted impressions into account on a regular basis when negotiating rates, so Digiday argues that we are in essence already accounting for the lack of viewability.

However these problems do not mean the current system cannot be improved upon or that we should not look to improve it. Ultimately a wide scale shift towards buying and selling viewable impressions would be a good thing. We simply need to keep this issues in mind as we move towards a new model, so that we ensure accuracy by not rushing technology (which isn’t mature enough) or allowing tech start-ups to take advantage of us (as they look to capitalize on the opportunity_.

We need to work towards an accurate, all-encompassing, industry-wide solution while remaining wary of “guarantees” of viewable impressions. Big industry players are already working on the problem; MediaPost reports that Google recently announced its new viewability measurement solution ActiveView. Because an estimated 60% of all publishers work with Doubleclick (a Google product), there is a strong likelihood that their new viewability standards will be swiftly adopted. This means accepting GRPs as measurement of display ads, to establish consistency with most other advertising platforms (broadcast being the most obvious), and investing funds in technology to implement and accommodate these new standards.


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