A New Era in Advertising Metrics Begins With MRC’s Viewability Standards

The next generation of online advertising has finally arrived with the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) official approval of viewability standards for display advertising. The move toward viewability metrics marks a massive shift in media buying, fundamentally changing the way banner ads have been sold for the last decade.

The concept of viewability has drastically evolved in the last few years. In fact, until recently, few knew what the term meant. As such, nearly all digital campaign analytics have been collected from view-through, impression-focused data. Without knowing if the ad has actually been viewed, advertisers are presented with a huge challenge in understanding an ad’s impact which affects strategic campaign planning and analysis.

Must Be in View for One Second

The MRC released its Viewable Impression Measurement Guidelines in conjunction with the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Emerging Innovations Task Force. The guidelines specify that 50 percent of pixels must be in the viewable portion of an Internet browser for a minimum of one continuous second, with a variance across vendors of plus or minus 10 percent.

The time for a display viewability standard is past due and the advertising industry should welcome this transition in digital currency. Metrics based on viewable impressions can help minimize the impact of fraud and enable true cross-channel media buying for brand marketers. In the often evolving digital ad landscape, higher measurement standards are the key to improved quality, transparency, and accountability.

Study Backs Up Value of Viewability

The MRC’s new guidelines mean the inevitable – and necessary – move away from now antiquated buying and attribution models based on served impressions. Thirty-one to 65 percent of served ads are never seen by the user, and without a doubt increased time “in view” has the greatest impact on ad recall, brand awareness, and purchase intent.

A study recently published by Millward Brown Digital, DoubleVerify, and Adconion Direct drives home the importance of viewability. The study showed that viewable impressions provide two times the increase in purchase intent among category consumers. It also found that ads in view for more than 100 seconds had four times the impact of those “in view” for less time. And those exposed to the viewable impressions more than were 50 percent more likely to buy the brand.

Viewability has an incredible impact on the future of attribution and media buying efficacy by allowing advertisers to understand the power and influence of each ad impression in a cross-channel campaign. If an advertiser doesn’t know if a consumer sees an ad, it cannot accurately attribute that ad’s influence.

Complicated, but Necessary Transition

The transition to a viewability standard for all publishers and advertising service providers will not necessarily be easy. Few are ahead of the MRC advisory lift, but others will have catching up to do. Thankfully, with the IAB and other supporting advertising organizations, the adoption of new viewability guidelines will help make viewability a standard offering. Those companies that are MRC-accredited will also play a vital role in making resources and knowledge for display viewability implementation easier. The purchase of data from multiple measurement vendors will likely be required, as well as the experienced teams needed to develop complex tests.

Essentially, viewability isn’t just another metric. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we do business, destined to impact the entire advertising ecosystem. The viewability metric will drive results for display, and video campaigns.

The most important question that all advertisers and agencies should be thinking right now is, “Can the ad be seen?” To be measured, the only answer must be “Yes.”

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