Marika Roque: will the the new digital advertising guidelines solve viewability?

Viewability has been a pressing issue in the digital advertising industry for some time now. It’s an industry buzzword and a huge driver of consumer demand, but the standardization around the methodology has been nonexistent.

The obstacles of standardized measurement and methodologies are so widespread in our industry that in December of 2016, the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), the MRC (Media Rating Council), and the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) set out to create consistent standards for online advertising in order to streamline digital ad measurement and minimize discrepancies between advertisers and their agencies/networks. The IAB, MRC, and MMA introduced new Mobile In-App Measurement and Mobile Web Measurement Guidelines that will shift both from a “count-on-download” minimum to a “count-on-begin-to-render” ad impression measurement minimum.

So what does this even mean? Basically, they are shifting the currency that we have used to buy media since the early 90s. The new guidelines will get one step closer in aligning impression measurement with the measurability and analytics model in place for viewable impressions through the slew of MRC accredited verification and viewability technologies. These guidelines will go into effect in Q3 of this year and it is our job as marketers to ensure clients fully understand the benefits of the new ad standards and how they reinforce trust in the digital aspects of their marketing budgets.

From a brand perspective, the changes will eliminate waste in the digital space and put additional accountability on the supply/publisher side of the equation. At Mass2 and Lin Digital, we wanted to know what exactly these changes would look like, so we conducted our own internal research to see how this push towards increasing measurability and viewability standards would really change the space. What would be lost? Who would take the hit? We found that 3-5 per cent of available impressions are going to be lost, but those impressions were not viewable nor a value to the client to begin with. So we dug a little deeper and found the central issue lies with the latency of the publisher’s pages themselves. This transition will force publishers to be even more mindful of their page latency or inherently have less inventory to monetize.

With the shift in currency (in the right direction), SSPs will now only pay out their publisher partners on the rendered impression metric and in turn will only charge their clients on the rendered impression. What this means is that entities on the buy side will only be charged for rendered impressions putting the onus on the publishers to manage the discrepancy between downloaded impressions and rendered impressions. We might also see a slight increase in eCPM due to supply/demand economics.

As of now, publishers have until Q3 to clean up their latency and optimize sites towards a strategic mix of viewability and user experience. Q3’s shift will close the gap download versus render gap and allow marketers to measure more quality impressions because they will actually render or not be billed. The IAB’s suggested viewability benchmark for publishers and vendors is 70%. The higher the viewability, the more confident marketers can be about the performance and impact of their marketing dollars simply because they have confidence that their ads are being seen.

However, as we get closer to Q3, marketers need to keep an eye on publisher’s rates. If their rates go up, you can presume that they are trying to make up money because ads on their site were not downloading fully to begin with. This knowledge will give agencies the upper hand with publishers and the ability to negotiate better rates. This unlocks another layer of transparency that we need in this industry and that the IAB is actively pushing towards.

All in all, this step towards standardization of measurement is a huge step in the right direction for digital advertising. As an industry, we need to continue to hold ourselves accountable for our clients’ media budgets and ensure they are not wasted on fraudulent or unseen impressions to maximize ROI in the digital space. In doing this, we will not only build a stronger partnership with our clients, but we will also put in place a strategy that is fully transparent and moves our industry forward.

Marika Roque is VP of digital media activation, Mass2 and Lin Digital, divisions of Nexstar Digital LLC.

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