Viewable Ads? Depends on Who You Ask

Last November we wrote a blog post about viewable ads and  the IAB’s effort to standardize online ad and video viewability measurement. At the time we published they’d set a guideline for ad sellers to follow, but how many actually did.

Ad Viewability Measurement Initiative: A Brief Background

At the time ComScore research had found that almost half of served ads on websites weren’t viewable. This is troubling for media buyers and advertisers who pay for served ads that were ultimately not viewable.

This prompted the initiative, “Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) which established the “viewable impression” standard. The requirements mandated by the Media Rating Council in conjunction with the IAB for a “viewable impression” are:

  • For a display ad at least 50% of the ad’s pixels must be viewable for at least one continuous second.
  • For a digital video 50% of the pixels must be viewable for at least two continuous seconds.

Ad Viewability Measurements By Ad Seller

Over time the MRC/IAB standard for what makes  viewable ads hasn’t been consistent among ad sellers.  Some have opted to utilize different metrics, like the following examples.

  • Facebook: Currently considers an ad viewable if it appears on the screen for any period of time. They are rumored, however, to be going towards a model that will give advertisers payment options that include charging by what percentage of the ad is viewed. For videos they would charge for a video ad only if it was viewed for at least 10 seconds.
  • GroupM: This media investment agency standard for display ads require that 100% of pixels are viewable for at least a second. For videos, 100% of pixels must be viewable for at least half of the ad’s duration.
  • Twitter: The site does not offer display ads in the traditional sense, but does require that they’re autoplay videos be be 100% in view for at least 3 seconds.

What Advertisers Can Do

It is important to note that The Media Rating Council “viewable impression” standard are not a requirement, but a suggested guideline.  The IAB functions as a lobby or trade group for the digital marketing industry.

Their goal is to create standards to simplify ad selling and media buying, but ad sellers are not required to follow their suggestions. They don’t violate anything by not complying.

Ideally, advertisers and media buyers would only be paying when all of their ads are seen for most of their duration. However, to avoid wasting money on ads that can’t be viewed by their intended target, advertisers should:

  • Consider setting an initial internal standard  for how much ad viewability they require from a site (i.e. how much is seen for how long).
  • Take time to understand the guidelines for viewable ads on that particular ad placement site before agreeing to a placement.
  • Understand that they are not going to be the same on every site.

A media buyer can be a useful ally here. Utilize the expertise of your media buyer to determine which sites offer up the best viewability and which are the bad actors to avoid.

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