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5 questions you need to ask about viewability

5 questions you need to ask about viewability Matt Timothy

I'm told the average production cost of a TV commercial is almost $2 million. That is an expensive story to tell. The vast majority of video ad creative being deployed through IP is repurposed TV creative -- the expensive stuff, built for a mass audience on a big screen. Viewability in a TV execution is not a problem.

When a publisher takes that expensive creative and runs it in a banner, auto-muted, below the fold, viewability is now an issue. A really big and costly issue. Nothing less than the future of video advertising, how it will be shaped, and who will do the shaping is at stake. Right now the price sensitive, algorithmic arbitrage players and impression mills are setting the foundation. The voice of the innovative storytellers, those eager and curious on how to harness the communication possibilities, is almost non-existent in this debate.

So as a brand, how can you navigate these new digital waters safely and productively? Start with demanding the one thing that we take for granted in TV -- viewability. At the most basic level, an ad must be seen to be effective. Viewability is on the lips of all the publishers, agencies, and aggregators. In fact it's such a dominant topic that the intense focus has created even more confusion as every stakeholder floods conference rooms and lunch meetings with all kinds of acronyms and buzzwords to give the appearance of taking this seriously.

To that end, here are five simple questions to ask regarding any viewability solution. If these are checked off satisfactorily, you will be well on your way to removing viewability as a concern, and you can then turn the focus to what is most important: getting the right message in front of the right customer.

Does the provider offer scale?

The biggest challenge advertisers face is how to measure viewability consistently across all placements within a campaign. The viewability provider should be publisher agnostic, providing a comprehensive view of campaign performance. At the same time, it covers all forms of creative (display and video) and is a solution that is easily integrated alongside already existing infrastructure, such as the agency's ad serving environment.

Can the solution function across cross-domain and nested, cross-domain iframes?

This is critically important as the majority of today's video ads are served within iframes. In short, the ability to read the impression can be limited within an iframe, crippling the solution's overall scope.

Does the solution go beyond geometric measurement?

Geometric measurement is one way to measure where the video ad was played, establishing the video ad's location based on iframe x,y coordinates across a page. However, this is a limited measurement as it lacks the true ability to measure the actual player or ad. The result: too many false positives for viewable impressions. Given these limitations, agencies should explore partners that support supplemental measurement capabilities such as browser optimization cues and/or location pixels embedded in the video.

Can the solution accommodate all browsers?

Your viewers aren't restricted to one type of browser and your viewability solution shouldn't be either. Agencies need to ask if the solution can accommodate all browsers as well as measure the active tab within those browsers. In addition, check to make sure the solution measures both the percent of how much of the ad is in view (and for how long) across all the major browsers.

Can the solution provide actionable and granular insights?

Today's standard practice for display measures viewability as 50 percent of ad pixels in view for one second and a video ad must be 50 percent in view for two seconds (based on current MRC recommendations). Video, however, requires richer insights, given the storytelling nature and 15- to 30-second approach to an ad. Given that, agencies need more insight on whether the spot was in view down to the second for each quartile.

We cannot evolve as an industry until we have solved this problem. If, in the early days of TV, networks ran ads that could not be seen by anybody, the TV business would not be a dominant advertising platform. But the ads were always put in an opportunity to be seen and the energy of the new market flowed to what was most important -- how to create great ads that turned attention into customers. If brands and agencies, like VivaKi has recently done, take a strong position on viewability and ask the types of questions listed above, we can all get to work on ushering in the next golden age of advertising.

Matt Timothy is the president of Vindico.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

A 20-year veteran of digital and traditional advertising, Matt Timothy has held senior executive positions at CBS and CBSNews.com, where he developed the first interactive sales team. As SVP of National Cable Communications, he created early...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Justin Belmont

2014, May 11

I like your emphasis on knowing what kind of views online ads get. Especially with social media, Prose Media has to make sure that we tailor our content to the target audiences of the various platforms. Even when you're in a good place with your marketing, there is always room for improvement, and you give some really good questions that should be the basis for your viewability evaluation. Great article!