News & Press

A 360 View of Viewability: We All Have a Stake

06/02/2015 - The Digilant Team

June 2, 2015 –  MITX
In the world of digital advertising it is hard to go a day without hearing or reading about the industry’s viewability issue. From new guidelines, to new studies, to announcements from advertisers’ that won’t settle or pay for less than 100 percent viewability. But what does 100 percent viewability mean, how do we get there, and what happens when we do?

These are some of the questions posed at a recent event I participated in, representing the Demand Side Platform (DSP) perspective, along with representatives from the publishing, brand, agency, and media valuation sides of the digital advertising ecosystem.

Our lively discussion may not have revealed definitive answers to all of these questions but we did find common ground across what can seem like opposing objectives. One thing we all agreed on was that there is more to learn, and more to do. So how do we work towards setting and reaching a realistic viewability standard?
Set Reasonable Expectations

In conjunction with the event Digilant conducted a survey to assess advertisers’ perception of viewability. We found that more than 42 percent of respondents expect more than 75 percent viewability from their media buys, with more than 21 percent of respondents expecting viewability greater than 90 percent.

While there is a great deal of variation across ad type and device, viewability reality is somewhere closer to 50 percent. Even the Media Rating Council (MRC) notes an expectation of 100 percent viewability is “unreasonable”and the IAB has called for a goal of 70 percent.

There is certainly merit to demanding that when paying for views, you get those views. But this is not an issue exclusive to digital advertising, and reasonable expectations must be set.

Establish Some Consistency
One of the biggest challenges in reaching 100 percent viewability is measuring it in the first place. MRC has taken an important step by defining a viewable impression. But the technology for measurement is still evolving and not all sites can actually be measured. It is important to recognize, though, that “not measureable” does not mean “not viewable.”

Vendors that provide third party measurement and validation are another key piece to the puzzle. But a consistent standard of measurement has not been established and there is still variation across vendors. While we work towards an industry standard – and the technology to back up that standard – transparency will be key.

Accept that We Are All Accountable
As advertisers begin to make stronger demands for viewability, including contract stipulations that they will only pay for viewable impressions, there has been a lot of finger pointing to who should be held accountable. The reality is, everyone needs to be accountable.

Publishers need to identify ways to make all impressions viewable. Media valuation vendors need to establish a consistent and transparent form of measurement. Ad tech providers and agencies need to work with trusted partners on a consistent basis for streamlined measurement and transparent reporting. These efforts will work to provide advertisers greater viewability standards and accountability. But advertisers have an important role as well.

If brands demand 100 percent viewability, they may need to reevaluate their current KPIs. Ad buys may need to be limited to measurable URLs, which could limit the reach and scale, and create gaps in effective targeting. Further, if publishers have to adjust impressions per page to ensure viewability, they may have to raise prices to account for this higher quality inventory.

The above outlook may look like an insurmountable challenge, but I came out of this industry discussion feeling incredibly optimistic. We all have a stake in ensuring quality inventory and measurable results, however we will all benefit from achieving that goal so must work together to solve it.

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