European trade bodies unite to try to bring some order to online ad viewability

The vexed question of who, if anyone, sees online ads has maybe moved on a bit. The European Viewability Steering Group (EVSG), a cross-industry body originally formed towards the end of 2015 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB Europe), the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA) and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), has announced the launch of a supposedly comprehensive European Viewability Certification Framework.

This includes the publication of the first set of European Viewability Measurement Principles and will soon be followed by the launch of a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to identify suitable auditors across the region. Which is a nice job for someone.

The Measurement Principles have been created to help reduce discrepancies in the data provided by different viewability measurement tools.

Its definition of a viewable impression is:

A served ad impression can be classified as a viewable impression if the ad was contained in the viewable space of the browser window, on an infocus browser tab, based on pre-established criteria such as the percent of ad pixels within the viewable space and the length of time the ad is in the viewable space of the browser. It is recognised that an ‘opportunity to see’ the ad exists with a viewable ad impression, which may or may not be the case with a served ad impression.

Screen Media Daily

Clear so far? Maybe. You’ll note there’s no mention of the minimum time spent viewing the ad, not yet anyway. And, rather crucially, this only pertains to desktops although a version for mobiles is promised later in the year.

EACA Media Agencies Council chair Jon Chase says: “EACA are committed to helping shape and implement the drive towards improved viewability measurement standards across Europe and beyond. The ultimate objective being to establish a fully viewable digital ad environment. Whilst other challenges in the digital advertising ecosystem also require increased focus, reducing data discrepancies between the different viewability tools is a crucial step towards enhanced accountability and trust in digital media metrics.”

IAB Europe’s Alison Fennah says: “With digital ad spend surpassing €40bn it’s ever more critical to reinforce the quality of the digital advertising environment to underpin the delivery of free content. Ensuring that viewable impressions are measured correctly and consistently is a key first step. This initiative is designed to enable Europe’s varied markets to collaborate and create regional standards and deliver local growth.”

WFA global head of marketing services Rob Dreblow says: “Whilst advertisers investing online often work with their own definitions of a viewable impression, it is critical to have a baseline of quality in terms of how to measure a genuine opportunity to see. Building on the excellent work in the US and UK, we hope this initiative will serve to help markets around the world reduce discrepancies and improve the quality of viewability measurement as this project develops into global guidance.”

Let’s hope so. €40bn is an awful lot of money to disappear (possibly) down an online drain. Online advertising has helped to build some of the world’s biggest companies – Facebook and google for example – and it’s beyond odd that nobody (apart from them) seems to know what they’re selling.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.