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In 2011, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) came together to fix digital measurement, by all accounts the single greatest obstacle to marketer, publisher and agency growth. After $6 million of collective investment by the three associations in Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS), we are on the verge of accomplishing something never before achieved in media: a wholesale change in media currency with the aim of improving results for all parties in a transaction.
We are in the midst of a remarkable transformation, whereby digital media transactions will be based on exposure to individual advertisements, not averages of multiple ads, like TV, or surrogates for exposure like print.
With this document, we aim to set the entire industry on a path toward collaboration and consensus in order to provide the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of participants in the shortest amount of time.
In phase one of 3MS, after exhaustive research with all the major players and working teams of leaders from across the ecosystem, it was determined that the single most important need is shifting currency from served impressions to viewable impressions. Digital has always been measured and transacted differently than other media: digital media are the only media that have always been measured ad impression by ad impression.
The shift from a served impression to a viewable impression is yet another step to greater accountability in digital media. Marketers, agencies and publishers determined that guaranteeing the Opportunity to See for all ads made digital even more accountable and also laid the foundation for greater comparability with other media. TV and print, despite their own measurement and accountability issues, are not challenged on Opportunity to See. This comparability paves the way to cross media platform measurement using GRP’s that are based on apples-to-apples counts and to better measurement of ad effectiveness, all of which were determined by the industry to be of paramount importance to brand marketers’ abilities to achieve the best media allocations for their goals.
The industry standard as developed under the leadership of the Media Rating Council (MRC) calls for desktop display ads to be considered viewable if 50% of their pixels are in view for a minimum of one second and for desktop video that standard is 50% for 2 seconds. In addition, the standard stipulates that for larger desktop ad units, 30% of pixels in view for 1 second constitutes a Viewable ad. Custom ad units and important elements of sponsorships are not consistently measurable today. The measurement standard and the technology are still evolving.
A core aspiration embraced by all those involved in 3MS is that 100% of traded digital media be viewable as defined by the MRC. While the industry has made great strides in achieving this aspiration, today and into 2015 significant measurement challenges remain, which the MRC says make the achievement of 100% viewability “unreasonable” for the time being. The limitations of current technology prevent our industry from fully measuring all served impressions. Today, measurement vendors produce campaign level viewability data that publishers observe can vary as widely as 30% to 40%. This magnitude of variance impedes development of benchmarks that are needed to fully understand viewability.
More importantly, this kind of variance flies in the face of historical precedents in media for seller guarantees of audience delivery. For decades, the norm in TV has been that delivery within plus or minus 10% of guarantee is considered whole and does not require any make goods.
Vendors simply cannot measure viewability in 100% of all cases at present. While this will improve over time, it is actually detrimental to the efficacy of a media plan to expect “100% viewable impression” delivery in 2015. This is because only inventory that can be measured by today’s tools will be used. Many high impact placements are still not consistently measurable. The inconsistency applies to page takeovers, road blocks and other custom placements. In addition to technical improvements, the industry still needs to codify handling of custom placements in the measurement standard.
“Non-measured impressions should not be assumed to be non-viewable impressions” is the precise guidance from MRC. We must continue to work to innovate and improve measurement as we go forward.
On October 16, 2014 the MRC issued “Viewability Implementation Considerations” and explicitly stated, “The reality is, however, that it is unreasonable for advertisers, agencies and publishers implementing viewable impressions as measurement currency to expect to observe viewable rates of 100%.”
To foster greater collaboration and build trust, we recommend that marketers, agencies and publishers adhere to the following principles.
We aspire to the best possible measurement and the highest possible levels of viewability. Following the research and principles outlined by the MRC, the advertising industry should recognize that 2015 is a year of transition: technology and billing systems have to catch up to this massive move to greater accountability in advertising measurement and delivery. To achieve the greatest collective good for the advertising industry as a whole, it is recommended that all marketers, agencies, and publishers recognize the following tenets as we continue on the path to 100% viewability:
With the goal of achieving 100% viewability as soon as technically and commercially feasible, the IAB shall revisit the transaction principles established herein at least twice in the year 2015 and shall employ ongoing dialogue and analyses across the market in order to stay abreast of any changes.
Read the Press Release
Read the letter on viewability and beyond from ANA, 4As and IAB
View the IAB Member Call on the State of Viewability 2015
Frequently Asked Questions
Read Sherrill Mane’s column in MediaPost
Download the 2015 State of Viewability Transaction
Download the MRC Data Request Form
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