Let’s Find a New Way Forward for Viewability

Imagine if you went to the movies and only got to watch two-thirds of a movie or listened to a song only to have it end two-thirds of the way in. In any other business, not delivering a third of a product would mean a severe downturn in sales, but in media, it’s become normal to assume that one-third of impressions are never seen.

The industry has been talking about viewability for years, and yet there have only been small improvements with little innovation to solve the underlying issue.

The viewability problem, however, becomes less complex when its origins are examined. The digital landscape hasn’t evolved on how it transacts on media—CPM (cost per thousand viewers reached) has always been the primary programmatic pricing model. But the issue is that CPM isn’t transacted when the placement is in view but on page-load. The difference between the two methodologies is significant.

The challenge of transacting on page-load

When transacting on page-load on a CPM basis, the advertiser is essentially paying on a cost per one thousand page loads. Their ads may be buried on the bottom of the page which the user might never scroll down to see.

Unfortunately, a majority of the viewability innovation that we see today is built on page-load buying. At the same time, advertisers and agencies have become more aggressive with custom viewability requirements beyond MRC, which becomes complex as optimizations must happen on page-load.

Currently, solutions for measuring viewability on total impressions are what everyone has become accustomed to. This key industry metric is known as the viewability score. Advertisers scrutinize viewability scores to help them understand the efficacy of their campaigns. This scrutiny leads to the innovation that we see from buying platforms. This has compelled the industry to continue down this path, although it’s impossible to achieve a 100% viewability score on page-load buying which hinders further innovation.

Moving to a more accountable and transparent transaction methodology

Now let’s go down the other path of transacting on a CPM basis when the placement is in view. In this scenario, the advertiser at least has a chance to have their entire campaign be viewable. Additionally, the viewability score automatically increases without utilizing any predictive learning algorithms. In other words, this is low hanging fruit, and not hard to implement giving advertisers the option to transact on only viewable placements. This, in turn, fixes the industry’s viewability conundrum. Now it’s much easier to unlock guaranteed outcome pricing models around viewability.

For instance, a publisher or ad tech vendor can tie their video player’s progress counter, which counts the video only when it’s in view, with the viewability vendor’s progress counter to measure the viewable duration for each impression. This more innovative approach provides advertisers with the ability to transact on any specific viewability duration with unique pricing models such as CPCV and VCPM at any second.

By closing the gap between the two counters, you can provide advertisers with a 100% third-party-verified viewability score on custom billing durations. This methodology enables advertisers to move beyond the viewability score to a cost-per-viewable-impression, which is a much more meaningful metric.

In addition, if a client can transact on 100% viewable media at custom durations, it’s possible to start reporting metrics such as completion rates and CTRs on just 100% viewable impressions at the duration they specify vs total impressions, which includes non-viewable impressions.

Advertisers invest heavily in their video campaigns, so being able to transact on only 100% viewable media gives them a much clearer understanding of the performance of their creative at any duration since non-viewable impressions dilute the data.  For instance, if a buyer can remove non-viewable impressions from their campaign then metrics such as CTR, VCR and total in view time automatically increase.

It’s time to wake up and start holding the industry accountable for entrenched practices that do not make sense for buyers. Big tech companies can easily change their habits, but many are too addicted to the scale and easy money that can be made from transacting on page load. We as an industry should now pave a path of measurement and pricing that aligns with what advertisers truly want.