Media Ratings Council Issues Interim Guidance for Mobile Viewability, Adds a Not-Quite-Viewable Category

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The Media Rating Council has issued interim guidance on what it takes for ads on mobile devices to be considered "viewable" and introduced a new category of mobile ad between "viewable" and "not."

Advertisers and web publishers use viewability standards to determine whether ads that were served actually had a shot at being seen by consumers -- or only appeared, for example, well off-screen. Last year, the Media Rating Council said the industry should abide by a standard requiring desktop ads to appear at least halfway in view for at least one second in order to count as a viewable impression. Video ads need to play for at least two seconds.

But with most major publishers now getting more than half their traffic from mobile devices, and ad spending on mobile expected to swell to $100 billion this year, the industry has been clamoring for a mobile standard on which to transact.

The interim guidelines, a stopgap while the council and an ad-industry group called Making Measurement Make Sense work on more lasting standards, mimic the standard issued last year for desktop viewability. And they apply to ads on mobile web browsers as well as those served in mobile apps.

That's not all the MRC said, however. It also introduced a new category in mobile called a "loaded ad," which falls between a viewable impression and an ad that never appears on a person's screen. A loaded ad is when both the time and pixel requirements are more than zero, but one or both don't meet the desktop minimums. So a loaded ad is one where, for instance, 25% of its pixels are in view for one second.

These ads "should not be associated with the term 'impression,'" the MRC said.

The MRC carved out a spot for "loaded ads" because "measurement of both pixels in view and time in view may be particularly challenging in mobile at present," it said.

Despite the interim guidance issued Monday -- which the MRC said now supercedes any previous guidance around mobile -- no organization has been accredited by MRC to measure mobile viewable impressions. That accreditation was the key step in moving forward with desktop viewability standards last year.

Mobile guidelines are expected by the fourth quarter of 2015.

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