You know viewability is a big deal when rivals in a given space band together to promote a new open source standard around it.
That's what's happening in online video as TubeMogul organizes a group of fellow video ad tech vendors including BrightRoll, Innovid, LiveRail and SpotXchange to support OpenVV (or Open VideoView), a viewability solution for in-stream video ads. (A demo of the metric is available here.)
The group is hoping to add to its roster major publishers and ad agencies to build momentum around OpenVV. While the elephant in the viewability room, Google, is at the moment not a part of the OpenVV consortium, TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson said that talks with the search giant, which just received Media Ratings Council accreditation for its general display viewability metric this month, began last week and are expected to continue.
"There's no sustainable completive advantage in who 'does viewability best,'" said Tim Avila, BrightRoll's VP of product marketing, in a conference call with Wilson and LiveRail CEO Mark Trefgarne. "We think this gets solved…by sharing code, as an industry."
Wilson said that OpenVV has been tested "across all major browsers and thousands of sites" and that it can tell whether the browser containing the video ad is the active window on a user’s screen.
Last fall the MRC, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the 4A's released some viewability data showing a startlingly wide gap of 7.3-78.6% of measured impressions that counted as "viewable." The IAB has otherwise been promoting "SafeFrame 1.0" specifications intended to address viewability in iFrames, which can block viewability.
Lately, a number of video ad companies have been vying for MRC accreditation for their own viewability product. In addition to Google, which joined previously approved viewability providers comScore, Double Verify and RealVu, Tremor Video this past week won MRC accreditation for its VideoHub system's five distinct metrics for Average Viewability Percentage, Engagement, Clicks, Served Digital Video Impressions and Unique Cookies.
Though video is different from general display units, Wilson was asked if there are similar hurdles OpenVV has to overcome in terms of how much true "viewability" this metric can provide.
"I don't know if OpenVV can solve the wider iFrame/viewability problem, but what it does do is give us a reasonably large sample size for any given campaign that can measure whether or not the video ad itself was in the view of the user and for what duration," Avila said. "We are going to be providing data from millions of impressions to the MRC, the IAB and the 4A's. So that could help address the larger questions of viewability. In any case, video has fewer problems than general display. Whereas iFrames in display are run 100% of the time, in video that's not the case."
Could viewability eventually become a unified metric for online video in the way Nielsen's gross ratings point is for TV? Avila is doubtful.
"I don't think that 'viewability' or any other metric is going to become the de facto, single standard of measurement," he said. "All these measurements are important for various reasons. But none of them in isolation is sufficient. Viewability is just another important dimension that advertisers care about."
Viewability fuels buyer confidence, particularly as many advertisers cite a paucity of high-production quality video ad inventory at scale. But even standardization of the viewability metric will only go so far to matching online video ads with TV.
"Video is still considered the Wild West, so we're eager to drive adoption of tools and standards that will make buyers more comfortable," SpotXchange CEO Mike Shehan told AdExchanger. "It's our sense that 'unviewable ads' are likely a bigger problem in pure display than video, but I'm not sure that the industry will ever actually move off of the CPM standard to viewable CPM currency, as others have endorsed."