MRC Calls for Separation of Desktop and Mobile Viewability

According to a new report by the Media Rating Council (MRC), mobile ad viewability should follow the existing guidelines for desktop, but measures for mobile ads should be kept separate from measures for desktop.

Last year, the MRC introduced a new definition for viewable video ads, stating that 50 percent of pixels should be viewable in an Internet browser for at least two seconds to count as a visible impression. According to the new report, those standards still apply for mobile, but the MRC recommends that mobile ad impressions be segregated from desktop ad impressions, since viewability is often more limited on mobile than it is on desktop.

Ron Pinelli, vice president of digital research and standards for the MRC, believes segregating mobile from desktop will make it easier to understand the current state of viewability for mobile impressions and facilitate the creation of new standards.

“We know that mobile environments are different both as a whole and with regard to the creatives served into them and the user interaction attributes amongst them. Much of our effort around mobile viewability will be devoted to performing similar analysis for mobile traffic,” Pinelli says. 

One reason it’s been so difficult to enact standards for mobile viewability, according to Pinelli, is that for mobile, measures need to be in place for both mobile Web browsers and mobile apps.

“There are certainly characteristics of the mobile environment that are different than the desktop environment and present challenges to measurement organizations,” Pinelli says. “When talking about mobile viewability, it’s important to draw the distinction between mobile Web and mobile applications.”

Further complications include ads that require Tinder-style swiping and drains on mobile battery life. “There are real structural differences between desktop and mobile environments that impact measurement, like swiping and feed-like structure of apps, and content served into ads,” Pinelli says. “User interaction and the impact on device battery life also have to be taken into account when determining best practices and guidelines for measurement.”

Despite all the challenges of standardizing mobile viewability measures, Pinelli feels confident that the MRC will have workable standards in the near future, though the findings of future studies may call for an industry-wide shift in the way that mobile ads are served and measured.

“We plan to offer refined interim guidance by the end of quarter three in 2015 and a draft of a mobile viewable impression measurement guidelines document by the end of the year. These guidelines and the technical characteristics of the mobile ad-serving environment might even require new or enhanced methods for determining the viewability of mobile-delivered ads,” Pinelli says.

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