Why Publishers Should Be Thinking About Viewability — And What They Should Be Thinking About
Viewability is an increasingly important term in the media industry. It is an advertising metric that attempts to track only impressions that readers actually see. Measuring impressions alone does not indicate that a reader scrolled down the page see a particular ad. Understandably, more and more advertisers are beginning to expect viewability metrics before they partner with a publisher. In the following Q&A Denise Colella, former CEO of Maxifier -- an ad performance optimizer for publishers and advertisers -- explains why publishers need to pay attention to this metric and how they can integrate it into their analytics.
Why should publishers be thinking about viewability?
The key reason viewability needs to be thought about and planned for is that advertisers are beginning to demand it. All the work that's been going on in the United States with the IAB, Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) to define standards means the industry currency is now shifting from the served impression to the viewable impression. For years brand advertisers have been demanding metrics relevant to their needs rather than the traditional performance measures they have been offered, and viewability represents an important step in that direction. It also makes digital more relevant to brands and helps move their perception away from it simply being a direct response vehicle. Attracting more brand budgets online can only be good for all sides of the digital industry.
Viewability is no longer a simple matter of whether or not you can accommodate the request. Publishers need to be thinking about a host of things, most importantly, which viewability vendors will be their preferred partners -- a difficult decision with so many available and accredited. While just a year ago having one partner was sufficient, the tide has shifted such that publishers have to accommodate numbers provided by the buyer's chosen vendor, creating the need to accommodate multiple vendors in their stack. We have been in conversations with publishers who are testing north of 10 vendors! They also need to be looking at how they can action the learnings from the viewability reports to make the data a valuable asset.
How is viewability measured and how does it/will it affect publishers?
While viewability as a concept sounds great, the major challenge to its adoption is around measurement and what it actually means. To date there are 17 approved viewability vendors on the Media Rating Council's website, with another dozen waiting to be accredited. While the key industry groups may have developed a definition of viewability, when it comes to the vendors, there are differences in their methodology of measuring viewability, differences in the proportion of inventory they can actually measure, and even differences in what they measure. There is also a lack of standardization in the contract wording used by vendors and buyers/sellers. The result, not surprisingly, is confusion and this is really holding back the wider adoption of viewability. At AdvertisingWeek Europe last month, ISBA -- the voice of British advertisers -- and Nestlé were both demanding vendor consolidation to help address this very issue.
What do publishers need to do to work toward greater viewability?
Publishers should look at this shift as an opportunity to re-evaluate their inventory structure. The data in viewability reports can provide valuable clues as to how to ensure that most of the impressions are being viewed. This includes identifying which ad formats are delivering on viewability and which ones aren't, then using this information to inform site re-design to deliver higher overall viewability. In addition, as a new metric this should be used to drive your optimization decisions to optimize formats and positions that will boost viewability rates for your advertisers.
Why has The Atlantic chosen to use the Maxifier platform? How does this kind of tool in general stand to benefit a publisher's business in terms of revenue?
The Atlantic has chosen Maxifier to ensure they have full insight and control across all their direct sold campaigns, as well as to easily optimize every campaign and not just a small percentage of advertisers, which is the norm when done manually. The rise of viewability as a metric is important but advertisers demand a wealth of different metrics to determine campaign success and ADMAX allows them to optimize to any KPI, given their direct integration with the ad server. Overall it helps them make relevant optimization decisions to drive results and help maximize revenue.
Can you explain what exactly is ADMAX product?
ADMAX is a platform that helps premium publishers deliver advertising that works for their advertisers by ensuring that every direct sold campaign delivers to its goal -- be that branding or direct response. Simply put, if you can achieve and exceed advertisers' campaign goals, you stay on more media plans, secure future, and larger, budgets. Through a detailed dashboard, Publishers get full visibility into the status of every campaign, and the platform provides them with platform-generated optimization recommendations for each campaign to make optimization easier, quicker, and more effective.
What is your take on the viewability standards problem(s)?
In a recent interview, Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the IAB, said when discussing the number of viewability vendor options "Instead of being the solution this proliferation has been an utter obstacle." If the IAB, as an architect of the viewability framework, recognizes this as a problem then we do have a problem, which is slowing adoption of viewability.
The key issues around the number of vendors relates to the huge variations between reporting, leading advertisers to demand 100% viewable impressions, as this is a natural reaction to overcome the massive discrepancies. If we can greatly reduce these vendor discrepancies so the difference is minimised -- the IAB is seeking a variance of only 10%, plus or minus -- then there may well be a great acceptance of the 70% viewability threshold that exists at the moment. However, at times I think there is an element of posturing from the buy side as there is recognition of the current limitations of the technology and measurement. While they realize 100% may not be achievable yet, what they are really looking for is a sea change so viewability rates have a '7' or '8' in front of them rather than the '3' or '4' they are currently experiencing.
We all need to bear in mind that the IABs State of Viewability Transaction 2015 announced at the end of last year is very much a work in progress. They make it clear that the principles and current viewability thresholds are part of a journey of development and improvement toward 100% viewability. Over time the differences in definitions and (rates) will reduce as the goal and the interpretations diminish.
We've all been around this block before with ad verification when this was the hot topic and a raft of vendors came to the forefront offering solutions to tackle this issue. Standardization occurred when the industry showed a preference for adopting just a few of these players. Although there are currently many viewability vendors - and more to come by all accounts -- we're already seeing a couple emerge as the vendors of choice so hopefully this will lead to a resolution of the problem sooner rather than later
What are the big challenges your publishing clients have faced in adopting viewability?
Apart from the important issues already discussed, one challenge emerging is that with viewability advertisers are beginning to look at achieving multiple metrics concurrently. For example they may well be defining a viewability figure but also want a specific CTR to be delivered, which makes this much more complicated to work with and optimize to.
As an international business we have clients across the globe and the spread of viewability is at different levels. While in the U.S. it is taking off, different markets have different levels of maturity and sophistication. The U.K. for example is very advanced digitally and publishers are testing viewability and vendors to be prepared, but the demand for viewability is still small. While global advertisers may demand they want to only buy viewable impressions this becomes very challenging when applying this remit internationally.