European cross-industry body chases 'baseline of quality' with new viewability principles

The move comes amid an ongoing debate over viewability

The Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB Europe), the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA) and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) are seeking to tackle mistrust around metrics with the launch of a fresh set of viewability principles.

The trio came together in 2015 to form the European Viewability Steering Group (EVSG), a cross-industry body dedicated to promoting honest advertising and high professional standards – and now for the first time the group has launched a set of measurement values which aim to reduce discrepancies in the data provided by different viewability measurement tools.

The move comes amid an ongoing debate over viewability, what defines it and how advertisers should measure and pay for it.

Suggestions on how this should be tackled vary: Unilever’s top marketer, Keith Weed, is conclusive in his judgment that he should only be paying for an ad if it is 100% in view, but some brands like L’Oreal shoot for 70% and above. P&G accepts even lower standards, siding with the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) validated viewability standard of an ad being at least 50% in view for at least one second, or two seconds for a video.

The EVSG has announced a comprehensive European Viewability Certification Framework, part of which includes the publication of European-wide Viewability Measurement Principles.

The group has said impressions on desktop should only be counted as viewable if an ad is contained in the viewable space of the browser window, on an in-focus browser tab, based on pre-established criteria such as the percentage of ad pixels within the viewable space and the length of time the ad is in the viewable space of the browser. It added that an "opportunity to see" the ad should exist with a viewable ad impression, “which may or may not be the case with a served ad impression.”

While there is no mention of how this classification will apply to ads served on mobile browers, EVSG said this is due later in the year. At the moment, there is no stipulation around whether there should be a minimum time spent viewing the ad for it to adhere to the principles, only time displayed.

The framework is to be followed by a request for proposals (RFP) process to identify suitable auditors to ensure the principles are being met by marketers. The search will be initiated before the end of August, with the EVSG saying it is open to appointing one or more auditors and that interested parties should contact the IAB Europe.

Commenting on the new principles, Rob Dreblow, global head of marketing services at the WFA said: “While advertisers investing online often work with their own definitions of a viewable impression, it is critical to have a baseline of quality in terms of how to measure a genuine opportunity to see.

"Building on the excellent work in the US and UK, we hope this initiative will serve to help markets around the world reduce discrepancies and improve the quality of viewability measurement as this project develops into global guidance."

There have been growing industry-wide calls over the past 12 months to improve the quality of digital ad inventory and develop more robust measurement techniques. In 2016, UK advertisers are estimated to have lost over £600m to non-viewable online ads.

A recent report from the IAB and the Media Ratings Council (MRC), which was involved in the consultation stage of EVSG’s framework, claimed that the UK is performing below the international average for online ad viewability. The research showed that 51% of online ads served in the UK don’t comply with current standards.

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