Advertisers, are you satisfied when your campaign meets the current industry average of 50% viewable? Do you think that's the best we can do?
Most would or should agree that it's not good enough and we can do better. Think about it: In most industries, a 50% average is unacceptable. Consider the consequences to an apparel company producing straight seams on only one of every two pairs of jeans. Would you buy that product?
Raising the bar on the definition is a step forward, but how do we encourage uniform adoption of the threshold? What about standardized measurement and consistent reporting? And the notion that scarcity of quality inventory will drive higher costs?
We'll begin with the current industry efforts to define viewability, including moving toward paying for viewable impressions only. We will then examine some persistent challenges we face and a few best practices for brands and marketers to consider when determining their digital advertising strategies.
The Viewability Standards of Today
According to eMarketer's 2016 U.S. Digital Display Advertising Trends report, "The past 18 months have brought about industry-standard definitions for viewability…across desktop, display, video and mobile. However, universal adoption of those definitions has yet to arrive." And we are still holding steady at the 70% viewability standard.
eMarketer believes advancements in viewability measurement and ad verification tools will increase adoption, including improved publisher-facing capabilities such as Integral Ad Science's latest viewability product, which combines impression-level logs from both the buy- and sell-side servers into a single report.
Paying Per View—Trend of Tomorrow?
Though it's unlikely that everyone will ever adhere to a single definition of viewability, or the threshold, there's a parallel movement toward paying only for viewable impressions. eMarketer predicts that publishers and advertisers will begin to unite around moving as close to 100% viewability as possible, replacing the CPM model with "viewable CPMs" (vCPM).
Advertisers should be transparent about their viewability goals and conform to in-view standards set by organizations such as the Media Rating Council. That said, I pose two additional challenges that should remain top of mind:
Measurement, Controls and Pricing
Publishers must continue to educate marketers on viewability and measure their sites via ad verification firms such as Moat, Integral Ad Science or DoubleVerify. In addition to full site audits, constant monitoring and optimization of all live campaigns is also required.
And what about pricing? The best partners offer post-campaign reporting to help ensure advertisers only pay for what was seen, according to a previously agreed-upon percentage. This seems like a solid plan, but where are we heading? Will everyone agree payment should be made only for viewable impressions, regardless of how viewability is measured?
In our mobile-obsessed world, advertisers should consider viewability offerings through a cross-device lens. The MRC has issued its first draft of mobile viewability guidelines, recommending the same standard as desktop. However, because the user experience is so different, simply defining mobile viewability poses a unique set of challenges. Moreover, challenges with in-app ads specifically may be even greater than that of the mobile web due to the very different user experience of "scrolling." These guidelines aren't yet final, and the fact that only Moat is certified to audit mobile viewability compounds the problem.
So what's the solution? One way publishers are addressing mobile viewability in-app is to create ad-serving logic with built-in triggers that only count the impression when the ad comes into view. But is this enough for advertisers? What's the alternative? Waiting? Doubtful in this industry.
While we are still an industry in transition, there are a few best practices advertisers can implement today:
- Pick your publishers wisely: Are they maintaining the value of their premium inventory through stringent management, controls and measurement? Do you, as an advertiser, clearly understand the costs associated with these best practices?
- Insist on transparency on both sides: Are you open about your expectations? Do you and your publisher agree on using a measurement vendor accredited by the MRC?
- Don't lose sight of the big picture: Viewability is not the only factor. It is a critical measurement, but it cannot guarantee results by itself. Remember your audience, the messaging and the context. Partner with publishers that can reach your target audience and deliver premium content.
Raising the bar on guaranteed viewability requires commitment and transparency on both sides. Publishers need to do all they can to ensure viewable inventory. For advertisers, success will come through placing a premium on their ads being seen by real customers.
About the Author
Brian Brownie is director, sales & customer insights, for eBay Advertising. In a career that spans 15-plus years in digital advertising, Brian has built strong expertise developing technology that creates relationships and engagement between brands and consumers. Brian has helped drive the industry with pioneering work in rich media, behavioral targeting, video ad serving and social advertising. He has held leadership and business development positions with major technology firms, serving as director of ad operations and business development at Unicast, director of publisher services at AOL, and VP of media at RockYou.
Brian is a graduate of San Jose State University.
About the Sponsor
eBay Advertising provides access to one of the world's largest online marketplaces, with more than 162 million global, active buyers and nearly $82 billion in sales volume in 2015. As a division of eBay Inc., eBay Advertising provides exclusive access to over 230 million hours of unique search, browse and purchase data each month. This first-party data combined with proprietary targeting technology gives brands something no other platform can.
eBay Advertising empowers brands to reach their ideal audience at scale through robust, cross-device solutions. Products include high-impact display, native mobile placements, programmatic buying solutions, product ads and offsite audience targeting.