In an effort to solidify the stature of its ad viewability offerings, the Google Display Network now allows advertisers to choose to buy only viewable impressions. The addition of the viewability-only option also reflects the demands of Google’s marketing partnerships.
"We've been making a number of investments to make digital work for brands [including introducing new ad formats and developing] partnerships like the upfront deals we've been signing with MediaVest, Digitas and Razorfish," said James Beser, Google’s group product manager. "Brand measurement is key to this effort, and for a brand marketer, the most fundamental question we can help answer is 'Did a person actually see my ad?'"
Even though Google, which claims it's unusual for ad networks to provide viewability services (though a number of video ad networks such as Videology do), uses the IAB/3MS (Interactive Advertising Bureau/Making Measurement Make Sense) standard – which stipulates that at least 50% of the ad was seen for one second or more – numerous Google competitors continue to push their proprietary ad viewability metrics.
For the past year, Google has heavily emphasized the viewability of its AdWords and video products, claiming its offerings adhere to this industry standard. This selling point was validated in April, when Google's viewability metric, Active View, got the approval of the Media Ratings Council (MRC), putting it in a class with other MRC-accredited viewability providers, including comScore, Double Verify, RealVu and Spider.io.
Google’s dominance in display and online video means the search giant’s metric will undoubtedly have implications for everyone else in the space, even as others vendors and measurement firms submit their own proprietary metrics for MRC-certification.
"We've seen such huge strides this year mainly for two reasons," Beser said. "First, the industry is rallying around the IAB/3MS [which stands for "making measurement make sense] viewability standard…
"Secondly, with that standard in place, we and others have accelerated investments in the technology itself, which has really come a long way. Our hope for the year ahead is seeing viewability adopted not just as a standard for display, but becoming a currency for the entire marketplace. For our part, we'll be looking to weave the concept of viewability into the entire media planning process: planning, execution, ad serving, optimization and beyond."
Even with all the MRC accreditation being processed, the definition of viewability tends to vary from provider to provider. Complicating the debate is that an increasing number of advertisers insist that mere proof that an ad was served is inadequate and demand that ad servers prove an ad was actually seen. Consequently, the debate has refocused around length of time the ad was in view and where it was placed.
For instance, if an ad was above the fold of a visited webpage, has it actually been seen? Similarly, ads below the fold, while less visible, also have a chance to be seen and drive revenue.
Even as various stakeholders continue to work through this debate, the rise of mobile computing has created yet another agenda: ensuring viewability metrics work across devices.
"Viewability is not just a challenge to be solved for the desktop, but across all screens," Beser said. "So as marketers think about cross-screen campaigns, being able to factor in viewability across devices will be especially important."