OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 04/07/2014 By Mark Glaser and Angela Washeck

MRC defines viewable ad impressions

It’s now official. After months of clamor over viewable ads and marketers upset about paying for ads that were never seen, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) announced a new standard for the industry. A web visitor must see a minimum of 50 percent of an ad’s total pixels for at least one second for it to be counted as an impression. Most importantly, the decision gives pubs a green light again on selling digital display ads based on viewable impressions, because agencies know the figures can be trusted — at least more than before. MRC and a working IAB group have been working since late 2012 on a new standard, because at least 30 percent of online ad impressions are counted when the ad is outside the browser window or “viewed” by a bot. Additionally, there can only be a slight variance (5 to 10 percent) between vendors’ viewability measurements, and the MRC has already approved Google, comScore, spider.io and others for their measurement tactics. Signaling the importance of this decision in the publishing world, IAB exec Sherrill Mane wrote on the IABlog: “Publishers cannot compete for brand dollars on a level playing field if they cannot guarantee viewable impressions.” But this transition will take time, she said. “Some publishers will be winners right out of the box, garnering higher CPMs and/or better shares of buys. Some publishers will need time to recoup investments in the new currency,” wrote Mane. But Digiday’s Lucia Moses said applying new standards for viewability “isn’t a silver bullet.” Because ad buyers purchase “based on results…it’s unlikely they’ll agree to pay more for mere impressions,” Moses wrote. Forbes’ Robert Hof said the MRC’s standard is “appallingly low” compared to the impact of 30-second TV ads. true[x] CEO Joe Marchese told Hof that impressions shouldn’t be the criterion. “Human attention should be the commodity,” Marchese said.

But how long do consumers actually look at an ad that they’re viewing within a browser? A recent study by Chartbeat took a small sample set of publishers to find out. They reported that half of all viewable ads are only seen for 1 to 5 seconds. That figure sounds appalling, but it doesn’t have to be, wrote Chartbeat’s Alex Carusillo on the company blog. “Not every viewable impression is equal, but that doesn’t mean that the shorter ones are categorically worse. It means that we should think about the goals of a campaign and which impressions are the right way to achieve these goals,” he said. Video impressions pose a different kind of challenge that the MRC hasn’t yet pegged. It will take the group until June 30 to determine what constitutes a viewable video impression, because there is so much variance between measurement firms. Will these established benchmarks positively change the online advertising industry, long-term? Maybe not, Hof wrote. “No doubt the new ad viewability metric will be a significant step forward. It just seems unlikely to be enough.”


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