The Limitations of Current Viewable Ad Technologies

Viewable video advertising has been and is a huge topic of conjecture in the digital ad industry. This is because of the struggle to come up with a consistent way to deliver and measure 100% ad viewability.  

There is a discrepancy within the industry as to what this term ‘viewable’ actually means. There is yet to be an agreed metric that tells both supply and demand if an ad unit is in view on a browser. And if it was in view, was it present long enough to have a reasonable chance of being seen?

There are multiple tech partners measuring viewability within the ecosystem, but no one method is the same, and whilst advertisers value the length of time and full resolution of an ad, publishers are less likely to value that metric in the same way. The IAB has their own standards but to cut a long story short, there is no consensus here. An industry wide viewability measurement system is the loch ness monster of ad tech - if it does exist, it’s lurking below the surface, waiting to be discovered but so far evading us all.

Even though the marketplace has the ability to sell viewable impressions, there is a lack of efficiency on the sell side that limits yield for the publisher. Advertisers and networks are unlikely to pay for an impression that’s not deemed viewable by their own measurement standards, even if the supply side disagrees. At the moment it’s a fairly one sided solution in favour of demand, and we need a consistent algorithm if the benefits are to be more equally spread. We can’t lump all these bits of terminology together and expect a one size fits all metric but we can get smarter about how we measure.

The requirements

The IAB and MRC have established minimum viable requirements for viewable advertising.

According to the IAB and MRC online viewable ad impressions guidelines:

‘As a baseline it is simple to appreciate the in-view measure aims to be an objective, qualitative, measure that simply answers the following questions.

  • Was the ad served?

  • Was it in-view?

  • Was there an opportunity for the user of the device to see it?

While these are the very basic guidelines for digital advertising, the metrics that constitute an opportunity to see, differ between ad formats:

  • For in page display advertising there must be greater than or equal to 50% pixels in view for greater than or equal to a second.

  • For video advertising, an opportunity so see is measured as greater than or equal to 50% of pixels in-view for greater than or equal to 2 continuous seconds of video ad play.

The problem with current measurement

These standards while seemingly basic are difficult to measure because different browsers load content differently. Not only that but as mentioned earlier, there are a huge number of ad tech vendors running their own measurement of these standards, and the methods used to do so vary for each. This means each vendor's results will be different, affecting expected CPMs, creating a paucity of excepted inventory and mistrust.

Some vendors use a historically based system to measure viewability, meaning they will assume certain domains are viewable and others are not depending on the historic data of those domains. But because domain content changes regularly and the advertisements vary widely, this method can be very inaccurate. It’s not enough to solely rely on historical probability scores to tell an advertiser their ad may or may not be seen based on a domain that may or may not have previously served a viewable impression. So while industry players are trying to address these issues, we’re not accelerating to true ‘viewability’ very quickly and we could be disadvantaging a lot of publishers.

Coull pre-bid viewability technology

To give our demand partners the very best opportunity to engage with their customers we developed Coull’s pre-bid viewability technology. Of course the first step along that road to viewability that everyone seems to be moonwalking towards, is very simply for the ad to be seen in compliance for the minimum standards.

What we’ve developed is the ability to detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served, in other words, pre-bid viewability. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. We have the ability to run viewabilty tech that combines historical viewability and pre-bid viewability data. This tech is tested across different browsers to try and mitigate the lack of consistency, as well and give the best potential for efficiency and ROI success across campaigns.

For media companies, the ability to sell inventory that shows a high level of viewability delivery and opportunity to see, means an increase in the value of that inventory in the market.

The biggest advantage in using this viewability technology is that it minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Coull provides viewability analysis using both page geometry and browser optimization and the tech is available through the Coull Video Ad Exchange which is in beta phase right now; due for full release before the end of the year.