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Viewability metrics complexity is hampering vCPM model

Dominic FinneyFaR Partners
First published: 30-11-2015
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Create DateNovember 30, 2015
Last UpdatedNovember 30, 2015

Viewability metrics complexity is hampering vCPM model

As marketers increasingly demand proof that their online adverts are actually being viewed, Dominic Finney, MD at FaR Partners (a Theorem Digital company) believes the time has come for the media industry to work out an industry-wide de facto standard that can verify the viewability of adverts.

Online ad spending may by on the rise, but marketers are increasingly concerned that there isn’t a standard where they can verify the viewability of adverts, so that they know they are getting what they actually pay for.

Digital media ad revenue is forecast to surpass TV ad spending for the first time in the US next year, according to research firm Magna Global, with a revenue of $66 billion. Digital media spending continues to grow as advertisers look to Web advertising, social media and video to target consumers. But the industry can’t rest on its laurels and it is essential to sort out the issue of viewability to retain trust in the industry going forward.

Viewabiliy is now a crucial issue
Concerns over viewability rose earlier this year when it was revealed by German ad verification company Meetrics that only 49% of online ads met the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) standard - that 50% of an ad must be in view for at least one second.

On top of this you have the issue of third part vendor accreditation to track viewability.  The Media Rating Council now has 15 accredited vendors, but has yet to accredit any third-party technology to track mobile ad viewability. Viewability stats vary from vendor to vendor, making it impossible for marketers to keep abreast of how their adverts are performing. Imagine if we had a host of companies coming up with tv ratings in the UK, instead of just The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).  We’d never have a definitive answer on the most viewed programme. That gives you an idea of how complex the viewability issue is.

The media industry has up until now agreed to disagree on the viewability issue and has been making half-hearted attempts to sort it out. But, the big tech players are taking the issue into their own hands. Recently heavyweight Google entered the foray saying that around 56% of adverts never get a chance to be viewed.  Some of this down to ad blocking exacerbating the issue, but other adverts were simply scrolled out of view or sitting lost on the background tab.

Google has since said that it will make adverts 100% viewable in the next few months, bringing all campaigns purchased on a CPM into view across the Google Display Network (GDN). Google is looking to ensure that picks up media spend where it is having the most impact.

The IAB has now said that publishers should aim to guarantee a 70% advert viewability figure. The American Association of Advertising Agencies, however, has said that the goal should be 100% viewability – and soon.

The big players are all too aware that advertisers are tired of paying for ads that no one sees. Facebook said that later this year it would begin selling 100% viewability adverts in the site’s News Feed. At the same time, Twitter has started offering autoplay videos across its service, and said it will only charge when video advert is 100% in-view for at least 3 seconds.

A lack of transparency in viewability has become a big problem for advertisers. Respondents to a study we carried out for advertising technology company InSkin found that inconsistency of measurement across vendor solutions was at the heart of producing real inconsistencies in viewability scores.  Of those FaR surveyed, it was rated as being central ( 8.3 out of 10 in terms of importance) to future digital marketing strategies.

The viewability puzzle

The general consensus is that the IAB’s viewability standard provides only a basic foundation and does not work across all ad formats and platforms which means we are nowhere near creating standards and consistency of measurement tools to enable a solid vCPM model.

It is time for the industry to get together and come up with a standard for viewability that gives advertisers confidence in the measurement metrics. Only then will the digital advertising industry be able to move forward to deliver the necessary tools and measurement reports for today’s industry that works across a host of devices, platforms and ad formats.


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