Seeing Beyond Viewability’s Protracted, Painful Rollout

Admonster's Gavin Dunaway “Everyone’s going through various levels of pain,” commented 614 Group CEO Founder and Managing Partner Rob Rasko at a recent 3MS town hallon viewability. In the digital advertising industry, we all suffer together, no? Certainly viewability has been a trial for those all over the ecosystem for the last few years – a veritable emotional roller coaster.

The days before the MRC advisory lifted, I had a few conversations with nervous advertising folk who probably thought like me that the deadline would get kicked down another quarter. But at the town hall, the healthy mix of publishers, agencies and vendors seemed rather calm. (It was nothing like a contentious debate I witnessed with members of the W3C’s Tracking Protection Working Group a few years ago.) Perhaps the IAB slipped some muscle relaxants into the coffee at the Ad Lab, but more likely the group was relieved that viewability is no longer an ominous dark cloud hovering over the industry – it’s finally arrived and is pouring down on everyone’s heads.

That’s not to say all is hunky dory, namely because “arrived” is a relative term. 3MS predicts three to six months before we start seeing a high amount of viewability IOs, so maybe “trickling” is a better forecast than “pouring” at this moment. Video is still a work in progress (mark June 30 on your calendar as the end of the “gating period”) as well as mobile.

What probably will pique the interest of publishers right now is the MRC’s Reconciliation Survey. It’s long been noted that varying measurement approaches among viewability vendors led to highly inconsistent results, even on the same properties. The extensive amount of reasons – including granularity of measurement, non-rendered served ads and good old human error — are detailed here.

With the Reconciliation Survey, MRC swears consistency is just around the corner and promises 5%-10% variance in measurement between vendors, which is much better than the 50% variances we were hearing about last year. MRC is requiring accredited vendors adjust in the next 60 days, and promises to announce when each passes the bar (I’m sure I’ll be receiving a slew of press releases). There are other worrisome parts within reconciliation – MRC admits that the measurement of iframes will still present challenges. For the reconciliation, accredited vendors will be required “to disclose whether they measure the ad or the ad container, and, in the case of the latter, will direct the measurement organization to periodically study that the assumptions implicit in container measurement remain valid over time.” As for SafeFrames, AdMonsters is conducting an ongoing viewability survey among its base to get an idea of adoption and effectiveness. (Email if you’re a publisher who’d like to involved.)

This survey also seeks information on average percent of viewable impressions guaranteed against. For now and the near future, 100% CPMV is a pipe dream. As The Washington Post’s Jeff Burkett (who has spoken on viewability in the past at the Publisher Forum and will speak to streamlining native campaign management at OPS June 10 in NYC) mentioned at the 3MS town hall, the best thing for a publisher to do is establish benchmark percentages of viewable impressions to guarantee against for each vendor they have tested.

But how many of the 11 certified vendors should pubs have tested, especially when the process requires 60-90 days? Then there’s the resources required, which IAB describes as “finance purchase of data from multiple measurement vendors, assign the right teams of people to develop test parameters, conduct enough comparisons so that you have an idea of how to forecast inventory and optimize yield.” Lovely.

What about agencies? Should they have similar flexibility when it comes to viewability vendors or do they get the luxury of buyer’s prerogative? This will probably depend on the relative sizes of publishers and agencies. When will viewability be reflected in updated standard terms and conditions? What about techniques such as lazy loading – is it growing in favor and who has implemented it successfully?

We’ll likely hit all these questions and more at our viewability panel at OPS on June 10 in NYC. As OPS is a massive event chronicling the intersection of the three biggest trends in digital advertising at the moment – native, screens and tech – our viewability panel will go beyond transactional mechanics and discrepancies.

We’ll also discuss the opportunities viewability opens up in bold engagement metrics (e.g., hover time) that enables publishers to share more meaningful data and perhaps bump up CPMs. There’s also the potential for innovative pricing schemes built against metrics like WebSpectator’s Guaranteed Time Slot, which I described in an earlier column.

At the 3MS event, the term “early days” was repeated so often that it almost became a running gag. But while there’s certainly much turmoil and toil ahead for the whole ecosystem, the lifting of the MRC advisory is a turning point not just for viewability but the advertising technology industry in general. Instead of simply patching up manual inefficiencies or facilitating a “race to the bottom,” ad tech is on the path to truly driving revenue for publishers and more effective advertising.

Taking place June 10 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York, OPS is where ad operations and media technology leaders meet, develop best practices and work together to solve today’s most important challenges in online advertising. 
As a digital strategist, OPS is the one event where you’ll be certain to get the information you need to stay competitive and maximize the profitability of your business.
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  • Rob Rasko

    @ Gavin,

    Thank you for sharing my quote and the shout out. A client of ours sent me this piece and pointed at this specific line, “finance purchase of data from multiple measurement vendors, assign the right teams of people to develop test parameters, conduct enough comparisons so that you have an idea of how to forecast inventory and optimize yield.” Lovely”

    The goal of our continued participation with the IAB the entire 3MS effort on this topic is to help with the pain that does exist in adoption. And while we are not trying to scare anyone we urge folks to take a serious look at what is needed to get to a successful implementation as painlessly as possible.