Isba: achieving 20/20 vision for viewability standards must be a priority in 2019

With such rapid change in our industry it’s imperative that we continue to work quickly / Unsplash

There has been much debate in our industry about what constitutes a viewable impression, from Twitter’s 100%, to the Internet Advertising Bureax's (IAB) 50% or 30% depending on the size of the ad unit. One of the most commonly used definitions is based on the Media Rating Council’s (MRC’s) guideline that a viewable display ad should be 50% in view for one second (or two-seconds for video).

But although this definition is familiar to most in the industry, it’s no secret that it has met with contention from marketers.

For example, at Isba's Annual Conference earlier this year BT chief brand and marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab said: “Less than 100% viewability is the equivalent of going to the supermarket and paying for a full trolley even though half the goods have been removed.”

The main objective of the MRC's guidelines is to create an agreed opportunity to see to determine verified reach. They was always intended to be a point in the journey with 100% in-view as the ultimate goal.

With such rapid change in our industry it’s imperative that we continue to work quickly and develop standards further so they’re in line with advertisers’ needs. It’s time to move on.

A level playing field for cross-media measurement

In March this year, Isba's director general Phil Smith announced our adoption of a new viewability standard. Isba recognises that different advertisers have different needs and that every advertiser should be able to buy at whatever viewability threshold(s) delivers against their business objectives including below 100%. Our ultimate objective is to provide advertisers with the choice to buy digital display up to 100% in view.

The key word here is ‘choice’. Due to the differing needs of each brand, not to mention the fact that requirements vary wildly across each campaign, one size (or threshold) does not fit all. The new standard is intended to give advertisers the power to choose the thresholds they believe will most effectively deliver against their business objectives for any campaign.

In the short term, this initiative supports our members’ freedom to have their ad ‘delivered as designed’ if this is what they want to focus on for a particular campaign.

In the longer term, it supports a bigger goal; one that requires us to work together as an industry to find solutions that bring all media space onto a more level playing field. This goal is the development of effective cross-media measurement solutions.

So what part does viewability play in this? We believe one of the fundamental requirements of effective cross-media measurement is the ability to provide the same Opportunity To See (OTS) across all platforms. If you think about it, it’s only when we enter the realms of digital advertising that viewability actually becomes a conversation. 100% in-view is standard for all other forms of media and if it can be bought in print, radio or TV, advertisers want the option to buy it online if they choose.

Good practice today builds a strong tomorrow

As important as it is to understand where we’ve come from and where we’re going as an industry, our mid-term objective needs to be kept in mind at this important time of transition. And that is the development and full alignment to global standards. In support of this, we announced this year that we’re now a board member of the MRC and we continue to work with Jicwebs in the UK and other regional trade bodies including the WFA, ANA, ACA and AANA.

Ultimately as the industry works towards a common standard, it’s vital that it continues to prioritise working with agreed metrics and definitions.

As part of this, we encourage advertisers to set up good practice processes that enable them to understand and trust the way campaigns are being measured. Recommendations include:

  • Use a certified vendor. The best starting point is to work with a provider that’s been independently audited to industry-agreed standards.
  • Understand what and how the tool measures viewability, using independent advice and metrics. For example, the UK’s industry owned auditor ABC verifies to Jicwebs standards and releases a Viewability Report for media buyers to use as a guide. The report clarifies exactly how each Jicwebs-verified tool operates and how they can be configured. It also shows how the tools perform in different scenarios, so buyers can choose the one that will most effectively measure their pre-defined thresholds.
  • Make sure you, as an advertiser, have direct access to the results. You need to be able to view it at any time. Knowledge is empowerment, and having the data at your fingertips keeps you in the driver’s seat.

By paving the way for cross-media measurement solutions, we’re forming the foundations for a dynamic market. The standardisation of metrics bring peace of mind to buyers and supports trading.

And ultimately the desire to make sure we’re getting what we pay for is something we can all understand.

Stephen Chester is director of media at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba)

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