Half of Marketers Want Stricter Viewability Standards

Nearly 30% of brand and agency professionals use their own measurements

Publishers are more likely than brand and agency professionals to rely on the ad industry’s status quo when it comes to viewability.

According to an Integral Ad Science study, nearly three-fourths of US publishers surveyed in December 2017 adopt the viewability standard of the Media Rating Council (MRC), which states that display ads must have half of the ad in view for at least 1 second to be counted as viewable.

While the MRC measurements have become the closest thing the ad industry has to an agreed upon standard, about three in 10 of the brand and agency professionals in that survey said they use their own viewability standards. For instance, media buying giant GroupM uses a stricter standard than the MRC, which requires that 100% of an ad’s pixels be in view for a full second to be scored as viewable. Some publishers oppose GroupM’s tougher viewability standards, but other ad agencies back it.

“Either you’ve seen the entire ad or you have not,” said Allen Stern, director of programmatic media at ad agency AKQA. “We want our customers to see our entire ad, not half.”

Viewability has become a hot-button issue for contract negotiations between ad buyers and sellers. Buyers have increasingly demanded that the inventory they buy be viewable. About 70% of advertisers transact on viewability, according to a separate study by Integral Ad Science.

But making sure that ads are always in view has led to more ad clutter, and according to some industry insiders, it is driving people to ad blockers. Some publishers have also been underwhelmed by the lack of payoff they’ve received after hitting viewability targets.

Another issue is that vendors have different ways of measuring viewability, so when advertisers and publishers use different measurement companies, discrepancies arise over how many viewable impressions should get billed. Given these complications, it makes sense that nearly 75% of US marketers polled by Integral Ad Science agree that there should be one billable standard in the industry.

While people may want a single standard, it’s unclear if that’s a realistic goal. Companies continue to create their own viewability standards since there is little consensus across the entire ad supply chain as to which measurement is preferable. The only group that could set a standard for the entire industry is the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) because its members include publishers, advertisers and vendors, according to Stern.