Does Viewability Measure Up?

Does Viewability Measure Up?

By Ryan Nathanson

New research findings question the validity of Media Rating Council’s (MRC) definition of ad viewability as the best metric of campaign success.

Many publishers have struggled to achieve the 70 percent viewability threshold prescribed by the Media Rating Council in 2014, and questions about the standard remain in 2016. As currently defined, can this ambitious target be attained at scale? Furthermore, research and case studies are increasingly questioning the best success metrics – is pixels-in-view the best metric to gauge ad effectiveness?

A recent study found that time-in-view may be a more effective metric of potential brand recall than percentage of ad visible. Per IPG Media Lab, “Time in view is king. When it comes to moving the dial on ad effectiveness, the number of pixels in view is not the driving factor – how long consumers have to see the ad is.”

Moreover, not all viewable inventory is accurately recorded. Research from Quantcast shows that “on average, 10 percent of inventory cannot be measured for viewability due to lacking the necessary information for measurement. This means that high-value consumers may appear on inventory that can’t be measured. Even though these ads may be viewable they will not be defined that way.” MRC has not established a standard definition of viewability for mobile.

AdAge sums it up: “Some ads that don’t meet the Media Rating Council’s standards for viewability can still be effective and have impact for advertisers.” Publishers are left with effective but immeasurable inventory, while brands chase metrics that aren’t the most effective at achieving KPIs.

The morass can be traced back to a common dilemma caused by technical advancement; which came first, the chicken or the egg? The digital advertising industry often employs a counterintuitive approach when developing metrics. We tend to focus on building the ‘whats,’ the metrics. The ‘whys’, the uses of the new metric, are often defined later. The result is a market often justifying and then selling the importance of a metric only after it has been developed.

The recent studies on viewability are surely intriguing news to publishers who are finding it difficult to move the needle on ad viewability as currently defined by the MRC. Registering time-in-view and non-measurable inventory presents a challenge as well as an opportunity in the coming year.

Ultimately, viewability alone is not a definitive metric – it’s the front door to critical metrics. The focus must remain on defining and measuring the ultimate objectives of each campaign. If conversion rates are high, the cost of customer acquisition is low, and sales are up, subpar viewability should not justify ending the campaign. It’s merely one variable that’s useful in determining the perfect inflection point of ROI.