The Media Rating Council (MRC) is likely to lift its Viewable Impression Advisory early next year, giving marketers a green light to buy digital media on viewable metrics. This move has also caused vendors to scramble to position their solutions in anticipation of a demand spike for measurement tools.
Assessing ad viewability has traditionally been difficult because there isn’t an industry-wide metric to do so. The problem became so acute that last year, the MRC issued a release advising publishers and advertisers to refrain from using viewability as a form of measurement, stating that “more work needs to be done to understand the methods that underlie these techniques and the impact of the viewability of undetermined impressions on the ability to project.”
As the MRC moves closer to lifting its advisory, vendors are racing to get their solutions accredited by the MRC. Only a handful of vendors have been approved so far, including RealVu, comScore vCE, DoubleVerify, Google Active View, iAd, and spider.io.
One vendor hopeful of approval is Calif.-based ad tech firm WebSpectator, which launched a tool in early November designed to measure and convey in real-time how long an individual spends viewing an ad. By placing a line of code on webpages, the company claims it can measure the time spent viewing an ad down to the millisecond. WebSpectator refers to the measurement as the “guaranteed to see” metric.The goal, said WebSpectator CEO Andre Parreira, is to empower advertisers to pay only for the time users spend on their ads rather than worrying about whether the ad appears above or below the fold. Brasil Telecom-owned ISP iG, which serves the Latin America region, managed to increase its CPMs after implementing WebSpectator last year, according to company CEO Andre Chaves.
“We can finally show advertisers how many people are actually engaging with their ad, which has led to higher CPMs,” Chaves said. Whereas iG’s initial CPM rates hovered between $1 to $1.50, it’s now as high as $18 to $20.
Despite this increase, the link between consumer time spent viewing an ad and an actual conversion remains unclear. Parreira also acknowledged that WebSpectator’s technology does not enable advertisers to determine if the same person saw the ad on multiple devices, which would be helpful for attribution measurements.
Currently, WebSpectator’s “guaranteed to see” metric is being reviewed by the MRC. To be accredited, vendors must adhere to the MRC's Minimum Standards for Ratings Research and provide a solution that can measure the viewability of individual display ad impressions within Inline Frames (IFrames), among other criteria. Ads that are served within a cross-domain IFrame are essentially sealed off to prevent any alterations or tampering from outside parties, which also makes it difficult for advertisers to determine if the ad was viewed by a consumer.
The MRC is only one of many industry groups attempting to define standards around viewable impressions. For instance, the MRC is also working with the IAB, ANA, the 4A’s and other organizations in a coalition group, 3MS, to address the issue.