4As Letter Calls for More Stringent Viewability Standards

Resists IAB Suggestion That 70% of a Campaign Is Enough for Now

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The 4As has jumped into the debate around viewability standards, sending a letter to members that calls for stricter standards than those proposed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

In the letter, signed by 4As leaders Bill Tucker and John Montgomery, the ad agency trade association proposes that clients should only be expected to pay for ads that people see.

The IAB argued last week that it is too soon to expect 100% of impressions in an ad campaign to meet its definition of "viewable," which requires half of an ad's pixels to appear in view for at least one second. Some desirable ad units, for example, are harder to track than others, the IAB said. For 2015, the IAB recommended ensuring that just 70% of impressions are "viewable" under that definition.

The 4As letter said its members considered the 70% figure "unacceptable," even if it is technologically difficult to deliver and measure campaigns that meet the viewability definition 100%.

"The IAB asserts that the media buying community has unreasonably expected ads to be 100 percent viewable immediately; however, we have never taken this position," the 4As said in the letter, which was obtained by Ad Age. "We understand that achieving 100 percent viewability today is unachievable. While we remain committed to a final goal of 100 percent viewability, we believe that until that is a reality, clients should be expected to pay only for the portion of the campaign that was measurable and viewable."

The consensus among 4As members is that "specific metrics and thresholds must be agreed on by both buyer and seller," according to the letter, which was reported Sunday night by The Wall Street Journal.

Asked for comment, an IAB spokeswoman pointed to IAB President-CEO Randall Rothenberg's statement to The Journal: "Implementing the industry standard in viewability is a complex matter, and the more public discussion, the better."

The 4As is not the first organization to push for more than the IAB suggests. WPP media agency network GroupM recently struck a deal with Conde Nast, publisher of websites including Style.com and Epicurious, to pay for ads that are fully visible, not half, in all cases.

The IAB said last week that it wasn't currently reasonable to demand campaigns in which every ad impression meets the definition of viewable. "Vendors simply cannot measure viewability in 100% of all cases at present," it argued in a position paper. "While this will improve over time, it is actually detrimental to the efficacy of a media plan to expect '100% viewable impression'
delivery in 2015. This is because only inventory that can be measured by today's tools will be used. Many high impact placements are still not consistently measurable. The inconsistency applies to page takeovers, road blocks and other custom placements. In addition to technical improvements, the industry still needs to codify handling of custom placements in the measurement standard. "

Contributing: Alex Kantrowitz

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