It’s Time To Move Beyond Viewability: Better Metrics Await

chris-stark-2“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Chris Stark, senior vice president of product marketing at Grapeshot.

There’s a fair amount of debate regarding display and video viewability standards now being transacted in the marketplace and it’s not surprising that as an industry we are not seeing the forest for the trees.

In order to better benchmark ad effectiveness, there is a desire for broad agreement on the degree of exposure a digital ad gets on a given screen. The real debate is as much about the methods by which exposure is measured and certified as it is about the threshold itself. Surrounding the issue is a general wariness that the current “standard” may gain irreversible traction because it facilitates ad buying today, despite its potential flaws.

While the debate is a valid one, I’m hopeful that the discourse will not get stuck on the narrow scope of viewability standards. We need to get back to asking what ad tech can offer brands to make metrics more relevant and useful.

Marketers need more meaningful KPIs in this progressively more omnichannel environment. Particularly for brand marketers, the calculus of success is still about the old-school ideas of reach and relevance, so the real work is to tie new metrics back to these. The challenge is to build currency that buyers and sellers can trade on across all channels.

That an ad is viewed is indeed a validation of reach but we shouldn’t treat the viewed impression as the end-all around which media buying is built and paid for. We need to be creative with new measurements like viewable impressions and take advantage of more potent analytical capabilities to link to tangible KPIs, such as purchases, subscriptions and coupon redemptions.

The fragmented and almost circular way that consumers now consume media means the notion of the linear purchase funnel has been eclipsed by the nonlinear journey. Engagement becomes a more universally applicable concept, which can be quantified and applied to various scenarios. It would seem hollow to measure engagement in one-second, or even three-second, increments.

Justin Choi of Nativo recently made a great case for the value of “attention metrics” like content consumption and social sharing. There are other examples that leverage viewability measurement and, unlike the viewed impression, are more holistic and easily bridge the gap between real-world KPIs and the branding concepts of reach and relevance.

Unique page landings: a twist on the click but a substantially more valuable measure for prospecting (cost per unique landing)

Cumulative brand exposure: total exposure to a brand over a period of time across any number of channels (cost per exposed hour)

Attentive audiences: a relevance KPI about audiences who are consistently dwelling on content (cost per attentive user)

Multichannel brand engagement: another segmentation KPI to demonstrate that consumers are engaging with a brand across multiple devices (cost per multichannel unique)

User journey archetypes: a bit more analytical practice of mapping sequences of activity (which might include a click or a viewed impression but don’t hang exclusively on any one) that are typically repeated before some real-world conversion, then accounting for journeys where all of these have occurred even when a conversion is not measured (cost per predictable conversion)

Until the industry arrives at a bulletproof and fully accurate omnichannel attribution standard – cynics believe this notion is a pipe dream – the current patchwork of proxies is a solid alternative and much preferable to the narrow filter of the viewed impression.

These new metrics may be limited in a vacuum but they are billable building blocks which brands can tie together across channels to get the bigger picture. That’s not to say that agreeing on reasonable minimums of ad exposure isn’t an important step in improving the hygiene of our industry. It’s just high time that we put viewability in its proper context: It is a prerequisite to engagement – nothing more, nothing less.

Follow Chris Stark (@chriswstark), Grapeshot (@GrapeshotRTB) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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