The open-source collaboration formed by video demand-side platform TubeMogul last spring to promote an industrywide standard for viewability keeps adding members, but the group is still grasping at definitions that all its members can agree on.
In the meantime, a number of key video ad-tech players, namely Tremor Video and YuMe, remain committed to developing viewability metrics on their own terms.
Among the new members, Nielsen has decided to sign on with OpenVV, as the consortium is called, as has video-ad marketplace Adap.tv, which had previously called itself "neutral" to the concept. Among the other holdouts is comScore.
The audience-measurement provider, which has received independent Media Ratings Council accreditation for its viewability offering, is "pleased to see increased transparency brought on by the growing use of viewability in the market," said Anne Hunter, SVP of global marketing strategy for comScore. "Our viewability technology provides a strong way to give buyers and sellers the viewability information they need."
OpenVV members plan to continue to hash out some of the thorny matters that continue to make "viewability" a vague concept for buyers and sellers, said Jason Lopatecki, TubeMogul's chief strategy officer.
"There are some pieces on the open standard that still need to be dealt with and agreed upon," Lopatecki said. "Those details include 'time watched' to be considered a viewable impression. Decision points are should it be one second or should it be five seconds? That's one of the big questions we're close to deciding."
The OpenVV group has presented data on time watched, the size of the player and other aspects of viewability to the MRC. Once members make the remaining decisions, OpenVV's metric will put it up for MRC certification.
In addition to Nielsen and Adap.tv, the roster of new companies joining OpenVV include WPP Group's 24/7 Media, Adconion Direct, Blinkx, Brainient, DataXu, DG, Extreme Reach, Media6Degrees, Meetrics, Mixpo, Gannett's PointRoll, SourceKnowledge and TRUSTe. They join original members BrightRoll, Innovid, LiveRail and SpotXchange.
In addition to the minute details like time watched, members are also taking a look at the wider limits of viewability, said Innovid CTO Tal Chalozin.
"There's a big question we're asking right now is 'what can actually be measured?" Chalozin said. "The way the viewability works, it can only be counted if there is a way to run the code inside the player. If the video runs in-banner, it can not be measured. We have to divide our campaigns between 'measured' and 'nonmeasured.'"
Barely half of video campaigns qualify as "measurable" – and therefore "viewable" – Chalozin and other members said. But addressing that may be beyond OpenVV's purview, as that issue also is a problem when it comes to the larger display-ad world, which has struggled to develop clear metrics around viewability, noted Mukund Ramachandran, GM for video advertising solutions at DataXu.
The reason DataXu joined the consortium is to solve the problems around video. If this collaboration can influence what happens in the general display market, then all the better. But getting clearer focus around video, which remains the fastest-growing segment of display advertising, is important to the company's clients.
"When an advertiser buys viewability, they're not buying a methodology," Ramachandran said. "They're buying the fact that an ad did what it is supposed to do. Therefore, having a standard that everyone agrees on is important. What we've found is that some different methodologies can throw up different results. So if one entity thinks that the ad was 80% viewable and the client thinks it was 70% viewable because they're using a different method, that creates problems across the entire value chain – problems of credibility, problems of acceptance."
What separates companies that have elected to go their own way with viewability metrics as a company's "proprietary solution?" Tim Avila, VP product marketing for video-ad marketplace BrightRoll, said the divide generally pits "ad-tech providers" on the side of the consortium versus companies with more of an ad-network model, which operates more as a walled garden. For ad-tech companies – such as a DSP like TubeMogul, marketplace operators like Adap.tv and BrightRoll or supply-side platforms like LiveRail and SpotXchange -- individual metrics are a hindrance to business.
"If Mukund from DataXu wants to buy inventory on BrightRoll's platform, making sure that our version of viewability conforms to everyone else that they may be working with is essential," Avila said. "For our business, we believe that there's no sustainable competitive advantage to the question, 'Who can measure viewability best?'"
While Nielsen isn't an "ad-tech" provider, the basic tenets of viewability conform to the concept of using gross ratings points online. And since the Nielsen GRP is the standard for TV audience measurement, expanding that same value to Web video as screen-viewing blurs for audiences and advertisers will help solidify Nielsen's importance amid a variety of measurement companies and techniques.
Asked if Nielsen expects to influence the shape of the OpenVV viewability standards, or if the group will influence Nielsen's products, Marco Parente, director of product leadership for the GRP-based Nielsen Campaign Ratings, was coy, saying only, "We look forward to participating in the OpenVV discussions and offering our perspective as an independent measurement provider."