It is the thousand pound gorilla: unavoidable. I’ve been in this job for about nine months now and haven’t found a conference where Viewability isn’t a major topic. Perhaps I should have seen it coming as I as I flew out to Vail, CO for Digiday’s Publishing Summit last week.
Digital Content Next (DCN) was hosting a private, invitation-only dinner at the Summit called “The Next Conversation,” where we worked hard to channel the conversation towards future goals, growth and opportunities. But first, I was slated to moderate Digiday’s Publishers Town Hall. I knew that the Town Hall would, in itself, be worth the trip given all of the attending publishers and the valuable opportunity to hear what was on their minds.
As I kicked off the discussion, weaving through the common themes of challenges for the modern-day publisher, I could sense the looming presence of the Viewability gorilla. Given that this new measurement currency is still working its way through the system, questions and blurred details continue to surface and many publishers in the room made it clear that Viewability remains top of mind.
In part, this is because marketplace confusion persists, despite efforts from the MRC such as George Ivie’s crystal clear statement last week in MediaPost. Listening to the ongoing Viewability discussion, combined with the concerns and issues raised last week at Digiday’s event, has crystalized a number of key aspects of Viewability for me.
So in the interest of clarity, here are some facts about Viewability that are frequently overlooked and which the industry needs to be clear on before we can move forward:
FACT: The viewable standard is absolutely critical to moving to cross-platform metrics.
FACT: Publishers who are in the business of having people actually consume their product will benefit from an ad marketplace that recognizes an advertising impression needs to be able to be seen.
FACT: The viewable impression standard set at one second for 50% of a display ad and two seconds for 50% of a video ad only represent the minimum opportunity to see an ad. This doesn’t mean the ads were actually viewed.
FACT: The viewable standard from MRC is non-negotiable. Yes, anyone can use it as a basis to negotiate on time spent with ads but that’s something different; something better defined as engagement.
FACT: The same exact set of ad impressions that are measured on Viewability have to be worth more, particularly if they are guaranteed to be viewable.
And now for the most important fact of all: Viewability has nothing to do with the consumer experience. It has nothing to do with why your customers value your product. As Ivie put it, “Viewable impressions represent the foundational change necessary in digital media to bring forward a comparable audience-based currency.” It is important that we quickly address these issues so we can refocus our attention where it is sorely needed.
Many companies are mired in this Viewability transition and, as such, they are failing to focus on design improvements and the evolution of their products. So the sooner we get the facts straight on Viewability, the better off our products, marketing partners and, most importantly, our consumers, will be.