Viewability has garnered a lot of interest since the early 2015- the year of transition. Now, to make the most of this opportunity, it has become imperative for every ‘Publisher’ to focus on viewability and adopt good practices as an integral part of their digital strategy. Consider this primer as a Viewability 101.
Last year was a remarkable year for the digital advertising industry, we saw a lot of changes across publishers, advertisers and analytics. Technologies like Header Bidding garnered a lot of interest, so did cross platform measurement, and mobile ad formats & publishing platforms (Native, LEAN, AMP, FB-IA). Among these, one that had the maximum impact across the board was the introduction of ‘Viewability’, which essentially changed the currency of the trade from impressions to views.
In the traditional value exchange, Advertisers were being ripped off – the digital ad industry was growing, but so was fraud and often, the advertisers were paying for ads the visitors never saw. As per a study, over 40% of ads industry-wide are never seenby their intended audience. To tackle this problem, IAB, ANA, and 4A’s joined forces to “Make Measurement Make Sense” by re-defining the value exchange currency for all stakeholders in this arrangement (Marketers, Agencies, and Publishers). They released the “State of Viewability Transaction 2015,” a paper offering the industry guidelines on how to manage the shift of digital media’s “audience currency” to 100 percent viewability. For buyers, it means greater transparency and value for money whereas for sellers, it means a greater accountability and fair opportunity, may the odds be ever in your favor!
What is defined as a Viewable ad impression?
User interaction with the content varies from platform to platform and so does viewability, let’s have a look at viewability by platform –
- Standard Ad formats – An ad is deemed viewable if Greater than or equal to 50% of the pixels in the advertisement were on an in-focus browser tab on the viewable space of the browser page for at least one continuous second, post ad render.
- Large Ad formats – Ads sized at 242,500 pixels (which is equivalent to the size of a 970 x 250 pixel display ad) or greater, a viewable impression should be counted if 30% of the pixels in the ad are on an in-focus browser tab on the viewable space of the browser page for a minimum of one continuous second.
- Expandable Rich Media Ad formats – Viewability measurement of expandable ads may be based on the pixel count of the smaller initial format of the ad when the smaller initial format is in place; or the pixel count of the larger expanded ad, for the duration when that larger expanded ad is in place
- Video – For a video ad impression to qualify for counting as a viewable, it is required that 2 continuous seconds of the video advertisement is played, meeting the same Pixel Requirement necessary for a viewable display ad. This required time is not necessarily the first 2 seconds of the video ad; any unduplicated content of the ad comprising 2 continuous seconds qualifies in this regard.
- Standard Ad formats – Greater than or equal to 50% of the pixels in the advertisement were on an in-focus browser tab on the viewable space of the browser page for at least one continuous second, post ad render.
- Video – A Mobile Video Ad that meets the criteria of 50% of the ad’s pixels on an in-focus browser or a fully downloaded, opened, initialized application, on the viewable space of the device can be counted as a Mobile Viewable Video Ad Impression if 2 continuous seconds of the video advertisement is played. This required time is not necessarily the first 2 seconds of the video ad; any unduplicated content of the ad comprising 2 continuous seconds qualifies in this regard.
Browser Sizing: It should be recognized that as a practical matter, the sizing of the browser window on the screen plays a role in the appearance of the ads that appear within that browser window. For the purposes of this version of the viewable impression guidelines, this factor is not included as a measurement consideration.
Here are the links to IAB’s ad viewability measurement guidelines for desktop, mobile web and applications:
Why is it important?
Since IAB introduced 70% as a minimum viewability threshold for campaigns in 2015, some agencies/advertisers like GroupM, part of WPP group, deals only with a 100% viewable inventory. This essentially means both your fill rate and CPM will be driven by viewability of ads on your site, making it important for all publishers to work towards improving viewability on their sites.
How is Viewability Measured?
Image courtesy: Integral Ad Science
Most viewability vendors use different versions of these two technologies
- Browser Optimization
Measures whether an ad impression can be seen by some user or not by utilizing flash technology where you would drop a “pixel” into the center of the container and then look for the frame rate responses. The changes in frame rates when the user is in view port / out of view-port is what is used to determine viewability. However, unlike Geometric method, it is hard to ascertain exact viewability (30% in view, 25% in view, etc.) unless you launch multiple pixels across the container.
- Geometric Method
Measures whether an ad impression can be seen by some user or not by measuring the relative position of the ad to the browser view-port. However, it won’t work for most impressions that are served in “unfriendly or cross-domain iframe”.
Which technology partner should I choose?
There are many factors to be considered but I will only concentrate on the most important ones here –
- MRC accredition across platform (display, mobile-web & app, in-stream)
- Human- Non-human fraud solution rolled into the viewability product
- Higher measurability rates
- Competitive rate card
- Customer support
MOAT and IAS are the two most popular partners for publishers. I would highly recommend anyone new to test these partners for your site(s) based on your requirements and take a data driven decision.
Here’s enhanced description on each of these accredicated partners to help you make an informed decision.
How do I improve ad viewability on my site?
Here’s an article that talks about viewabilty best practices.
Disclaimer – My experience with these viewability technology vendors is limited to my role in my company and I have only had the pleasure of working with Comscore’s AdXpose, MOAT, Integral Ad Science and Google’s Active view(DFP only).