Google to Tell Brands When Their Video Ads Are Actually Seen

Search Giant Will Report Viewability for Some YouTube Ads Later This Year

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Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
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Google is getting more transparent with advertisers about whether consumers are actually watching their online video ads.

Google will start telling advertisers and publishers to what extent their digital video ads are being seen, the company announced on Tuesday. Specifically the search giant, which also owns YouTube, will say what percentage of an advertiser's or publisher's video ads were at least 50% in view and for at least two seconds in keeping with the Media Ratings Council's standard.

This viewability reporting will be available to any campaigns served through Google's DoubleClick ad-technology system, including its ad exchange, but advertisers and publishers will need to use Google's DoubleClick reporting tools to view the stats.

Video is at the foundation of Google's efforts to move brand advertisers' budgets from traditional media like TV to digital channels. And at the foundation of digital is viewability -- or at least Google wants to put viewability at the foundation.

Right now online advertising's foundational metric is whether an ad was served. From there advertisers can see if people saw the ad, clicked on it, watched it, etc.

"Viewability is really table stakes," said Neal Mohan, VP-video and display advertising at Google.

With display banner ads, Google has already allowed advertisers to pay only for those that are viewed. Asked if it plans to do the same with pre-roll and mid-roll video ads, Mr. Mohan deflected and said that Google plans to roll out more viewability solutions throughout the rest of this year.

As part of that 2015 viewable video ads roll-out, Google plans to extend its viewability reporting to YouTube ads bought on a reserved basis or through its NewFronts package called Google Preferred, which compiled the top 5% of YouTube channels into 14 packages for advertisers to buy.

Later this year Google also expects to start telling advertisers the average amount of time that an ad was viewable on YouTube and whether people are listening to the ad or whether it's muted or playing in a background tab.

Google also offered a peek at how it's private video ad exchange business Google Partner Select is doing. Seven months ago, Google announced the program that automates the sale of online video ads through private auctions. Through Partner Select, advertisers can bid on a single publisher's video inventory and buy ads against full episodes, live sports and news streams and short clips in real time that aren't available for purchase anywhere else.

Google has added more than 30 TV networks and premium publishers and over 20 advertisers to sell and buy online video ads through its Partner Select program. Companies selling ads through Partner Select include Fox News, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Food Network, Hearst Television, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Men's Fitness. And advertisers buying that private inventory include BMW and Allstate.

Mr. Mohan declined to say how many campaigns have run through Partner Select or what percentage of the average participating publisher's digital video inventory is sold through the Google-run private exchanges.

In keeping with the viewability theme of Google's Tuesday news, Google claimed that people on average watch in full 74% of the video ads that are sold through Partner Select.