The Three Pieces of the Viewability Pie

By Melinda McLaughlin
June 30, 2014

Today, the MRC officially lifted its advisory regarding transacting on the Viewable Impression in video.

This marks an important milestone in the progression of digital video from a nascent, ill-defined new medium to a powerful mass media vehicle for brand marketers in pursuit of consumers across screens. Congratulations to the IAB, ANA, and AAAA (3MS) and all the people who do the tireless work to set standards on the path to unlock the true potential of video advertising.

Taking nothing away from this critically important development, I will posit that this is just the first of 3 essential issues that must be addressed for TV and Video to finally be employed holistically, easily and transparently to achieve brand goals previously accomplished with just traditional TV.

Part 1: The “On Par” Definition

Regardless of where you sit on the outcome of the definition, the fact that we now have a standard formula for measuring the opportunity for an ad to be seen is forward movement and puts video on par with television. With that first hurdle behind us as an industry, there’s a dangerous curve ahead that I portend could wreak a bit of havoc over the next year if we don’t work together to get our industry hands around it.

Part 2: The Consistency Conundrum

I’m sure we’re not alone in the industry, testing and experimenting with all the various methodologies. From what we’ve seen so far, each company is reporting vastly different Viewable Impressions on the same campaign. Whether you are an agency, publisher or platform, results like this aren’t helpful. This doesn’t serve anyone well, albeit maybe the agencies that choose the measurement companies with the lowest figures for “chance to see” regardless of whether it’s deemed the most accurate or not. This dynamic will pull us all down when we should work together in pursuit of accuracy.

Part 3: The Whole Viewable Picture

Do not mistake the standard for Viewable Impression to be the measure of viewability for a video ad. If the Viewable Impression is the speed limit, viewability is the radar gun that tells you exactly how fast you were going. They are vastly different things. The Viewable Impression is the chance for an ad to work while the other unveils the ultimate truth and whether that ad should have ever been served in that content and context relative to what you were trying to achieve. They industry needs both.

We fully embrace the Viewable Impression for our partners that deem that the buying model that fits their needs. But since last year, we’ve been increasing transacting on viewability performance, or what actually happens. Many of our partners choose to buy on our CPV&C currency. This means they only pay us when their video ad is 100% viewable on the screen and 100% completed. We’re able to do this because we’ve had MRC accreditation for Average Viewability Percentage and Completion for over a year.

Transacting on a singular formula for the Viewable Impression is a step forward for the industry, but I can’t help but worry that with this one step forward we’re taking many, complicated steps back. Knowing exactly how viewable a video ad was throughout the duration of that ad is vital to understanding how, when, where and why video advertising works to build brands. Do not confuse the two but instead, demand both.