Engagement metrics are all well and good, but before someone can be engaged by an ad, that person has to be able to see it. And with more time and money shifting over to mobile, the viewability debate is heating up there.
“Viewability is the first step towards engagement, and we’re starting at the front door,” said Doug Rohrer, chief strategy officer at mobile ad platform Kargo. On Monday, the company, which has partnerships with big-name publishers like Turner, Hearst and Vox, started selling several of its mobile ad units – including the interstitial, hover and adhesion products – on a homegrown viewability metric, guaranteeing 80% in-view or your money back.
Ad analytics company Moat, which is partnering with Kargo to produce the metric, reports that the industry average for mobile viewability is a meager 44% of pixels in view for one continuous second. Considering that the IAB standard for desktop display and video is for 50% of the pixels to be in view for one second, that number certainly leaves something to be desired.
That said, desktop viewability is challenging enough, with inventory quality issues, bad placements, click bait, autoplay, and out-and-out fraud to deal with, plus the attribution problem of giving credit back to impressions that were never viewable in the first place.
Although opinions vary regarding the usefulness of a 50% standard, the Media Rating Council lifted its advisory against selling desktop display ads based on viewability in March, doing the same for video at the end of June.
But there is no mobile viewability standard in place right now.
That’s why Kargo wants to act as a sort of “white knight” for an industry plagued by long-tail publisher problems. Although low mobile viewability is partly caused by the way users engage with their device – the vertical scroll – there’s also plenty of blame for long-tail publishers that aren’t optimizing their sites for mobile. Either the ads aren’t viewed because the site itself doesn’t work properly on a mobile screen, or the experience is so bad that users immediately X out.
“We’re still just learning, and we don’t claim that our solution is the end result, but we’re confident that this is a good starting place in the market,” Rohrer said. “Because translating the click-through banner route from desktop to a mobile screen is not a valuable experience for the user or the marketer, and the fact that anyone tries to do it boggles my mind.”
It’s a mind-set seemingly shared by brands and agencies. As Unilever recently made clear, halfway isn’t going to cut it. Despite participating in the creation of the IAB’s 50% standard for online video, the consumer packaged goods behemoth and its media agency Mindshare, part of GroupM, want 100% viewability or nada.
It goes to reason that 44% mobile viewability isn’t going to cut it for brands and agencies either. But better guarantees could nudge more brand dollars into the mobile channel and open the door to wider adoption of engagement metrics, said Rohrer, who expects some pushback from certain publishers who aren’t ready to relinquish CTR for attention, on mobile or anywhere.
“The broader, long-tail players want no part of viewability and engagement metrics because they want to live in a click-through world,” Rohrer said. “But the real content creators want this. The Hearsts of the world are clamoring for it because they hate being measured like a Google.”