Google’s Mohan: Viewability First, Then Quality

NealMohanLast week at CES, Google had a lot to say about video and viewability. But the company is not a viewability virgin.

It’s had a viewable impressions tool called Active View in the market for well over two years and will soon extend viewability reporting across YouTube, Google Display Network and DoubleClick for both desktop and mobile. In addition, Google hinted at audibility reporting.

Neal Mohan, vice president of display and video advertising at Google, told AdExchanger the industry needs to move from an impressions-based mindset in favor of measuring whether the ad was actually seen (and heard).

Of course, verifying viewability in the lucrative online video market (and pushing premium inventory through Google Partner Select and Google Preferred programs) also helps the company court brand advertisers and attract the almighty $70 billion TV ad dollar.

Mohan spoke with AdExchanger about some of Google’s recent video and viewability announcements on the eve of his appearance at the Industry Preview conference next week.

AdExchanger: What was the driving principle behind Google Partner Select?

NEAL MOHAN: Could we create this premium video marketplace that took advantage of programmatic technology [in a] brand-safe environment? Every publisher we talked to for Google Partner Select, we [asked whether] is this a truly premium publisher who understands the breadth of their content [and] understands programmatic and how it could add value. We wanted to be highly premium and curated. These partners have stepped up by making their inventory exclusively available to Partner Select.

How much inventory is sold exclusively by Google via Partner Select?

We’re not breaking out specific numbers, but this is a marketplace at the end of the day. Publishers are participating because there’s volume of demand. They want access to meaningful reach and meaningful engagement. We’ve been able to deliver both, otherwise we wouldn’t have had the interest from 30-plus partners. We looked for a broad spectrum of content ranging from sports, such as Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated, to lifestyle like HGTV and Food Network, to news. We wanted to meet marketer’s objectives from a content standpoint, demographic standpoint and so diversity of inventory was a big driver.

What’s one of the benefits of working with Google when agencies still source a bulk of media for publishers?

When we had conversations with publishers, the reason why they participated exclusively with us is we give them access to a new programmatic demand source, which we facilitate through the buy side as well as the sell side.

How many brands do they have access to?

We’ve seen over 20 global brands participate in Google Partner Select and the main driver for them is getting access to premium video inventory and a means to which they can tell their story around sight, sound and motion programmatically so they can match up to publishers in real time and bring data insights to bear. Brands are seeing completion rates on their video ads of around 74%, which means they’re getting in front of consumers in a time that’s most engaging to consumers. So you’ve got brand building and digital coming together in Google Partner Select.

How do you facilitate deals for Google Preferred inventory?

Partner Select is our way of marrying brands with premium video content across the Internet, and Google Preferred is our means to give brands access to the top 5% of content on YouTube as measured by engagement. The kind of content that creates the water-cooler moments. Brands access that through conversations with our sales force, and we tee up a number of conversations around [the newfronts] with some of the large video buyers. We’ve had what we thought was a very successful first year of the program and are looking to grow the program in 2015 due to the response we’ve seen.

What measurements did you use to arrive at the 74% completion rate you mentioned?

Measurement is not limited to Google Preferred or YouTube. We’re trying to develop a ubiquitous standard marketers can apply to all of their brand-building efforts across digital. We’ve partnered closely in terms of measurement of reach and frequency with comScore and Nielsen, but we’re … thinking about ways we can measure that more directly and do that in as real time as possible.


We have a set of products under the moniker of “Brand Lift,” which include brand awareness metrics like ad recall, change in consideration, purchase intent, etc., metrics around the efficacy of a campaign. We’ve done over 6,000 brand lift studies for global brands across YouTube and we’re able to deliver insights back to them not weeks or months after a campaign, but in much more real time.

You made a number of announcements around viewability and audibility reporting at CES. What can we expect?

ActiveView was really our contribution to the industry to address this question of viewability. Then we announced the availability of ActiveView according to the MRC standard for video campaigns across all of our DoubleClick products, both on the buy side as well as on the sell side.

We’re stepping up as a media owner as well. Campaigns that run across our Google Display Network, we only charge for viewable impressions, so we’re moving from a viewed impressions standard as opposed to a served impressions standard. You’ll see more from us over the course of 2015.

What’s motivating you?

The question of viewability really is table stakes for the entire industry. Everything we talk about in terms of targeting and formats don’t really matter unless you can guarantee a human being is actually seeing your ad. Back in December we did a study that found up to 56% of ads across the Internet aren’t actually seen. With numbers like that, nothing else really matters.

Viewability, at least, as the MRC defines it – 50% in-view for at least two seconds – is sort of a standard that’s not a standard. Why not 100%?

As an industry, we should address viewability, but then move on to things like “was this even the right set of human beings that saw my ad?” and “what was the impact on my brand as a result of my campaign?” We can’t get to any of those questions around [quality] if we have lingering doubt around viewability.


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