Sizmek Levels Up Viewability Metric With MRC Accreditation

kalus sizmekViewability – the qualities that convey whether an advertisement was seen by its target audience – remains a contentious issue in the ad tech space. This is why associations like the Media Ratings Council (MRC) give accreditation to vendors offering viewability metrics, and why those vendors have scrambled for approval.

One such company is Sizmek, whose MDX ad-management platform was accredited by the MRC for its Viewable Impression metric.

AdExchanger spoke with Mark Kalus, the company’s associate VP of product management, about Sizmek’s accreditation and the state of viewability as a whole.

AdExchanger: Is this accreditation for display advertising?

MARK KALUS: We’re accredited for display impressions but, in our road map, we’re working on video and mobile versions. There are different technology challenges for those formats.

What are those challenges?

At a high level, for mobile, you have different types of devices with different types of browsers. You have in-app and mobile Web and with those things there’s different levels of acceptance for javascript. For that reason, it’s not as clear-cut as display where most inventory is running on a browser.

The video challenge is that you’re not measuring viewability of the ad, but trying to anchor off the player. That requires another level of integration with the player and the network that controls that players.

What other types of accreditation are out there?

A lot of it is around basic counting. As an ad server, you have to be accredited for impression measurement. Then there are additional accreditations for video impression measurement, rich media impression measurement. We’re also accredited for things like frequency measurement. These are all baseline facts that say, “OK, I can trust this system and their accounting method so I can accurately bill.”

That’s the intention of where viewability is going. Advertisers want to use it as a billing metric.

What’s the time and process by which a vendor can gain MRC accreditation?

I’ve been part of a few accreditations both at Sizmek and at other companies. The time range varied. We’re talking between three and six months. Essentially you’re working not only with the MRC directly in mapping out what your product is doing relative to the [MRC’s] standards, but they also bring in a third-party auditor that will run real test campaigns and check the data going in and out and see the output going out matches what it should do.

Do skews exist between the different types of metrics in which one metric might say an ad was viewed whereas another one will say it wasn’t?

That’s something we saw a lot of over the last year, year and a half. Different technology vendors were seeing variability in their results. We saw that in our own product and we made a lot of investments over the last year to make it more consistent.

Going forward, you’ll see more consistency. With the MRC accreditation, it’ll help advertisers see there’s a baseline stability now.

What investments were you making to aid that consistency?

With viewability, there are two important things. One is recordable rate. The other is the ability to provide advanced thresholds, or custom thresholds. So the area where we made a lot of investments is in improving recordable rate: The ability to make a read on an impression, which is not always easy. Depending on the browser, the type of ad, the type of iframe used for the ad, there are a lot of things that block technology providers from being able to read and make recordings of viewability. But as you layer on more technologies and techniques, you can make that recordable rate higher and higher. In 2013 and even now, we’ve invested to get that up to a very high level so we’re now on par with most solutions in the market.

What’s considered a high level?

Clients want to see 70% or higher as a good rule of thumb. But that varies from client to client.

What are advanced thresholds?

Let’s call them custom thresholds. We’ve built that into our product from the very beginning. The threshold comes into play when the idea of an ad being viewable or not is not clear cut. So the MRC created a standard that said you have to be viewable for at least one second for 50% of the ad. Most of the industry finds that perfectly acceptable, but some clients have more stringent definitions of what they consider viewable. So they want to increase that to five seconds, 100% of the ad.

Others have ads that are very large. They can’t fit on the screen at once. For reasons like that we have custom threshold capabilities, which we find to be a differentiator in the market.

What drives certain clients to be more stringent around viewability?

It’s like anything else. Different businesses have different ways of running their businesses. Different skill sets, different things they’ve found is important to how they run their business. The real simple one is if you’re a brand advertisers vs. a direct-response advertiser. You’ve discovered over time certain metrics are really important for your business and so you prioritize those certain metrics, or have more stringency around a certain metric.

To what extent is the debate around what constitutes viewability winding down?

A lot of the noise around viewability, the protest, has been from publishers who object to the inconsistencies in the measurement between providers. What the MRC accreditation is doing is helping bring to bear the validated providers, like Sizmek. And that shows the measurement is becoming more mature and consistent. So the publisher can begin to rely on that. And the advertiser will get the data he needs. I don’t know if the data will be used for transactions or not. We don’t have a horse in that race. Sizmek is a digital technology provider, but we try to provide data that’s valuable for making decisions. Everyone in the buy side agrees this is valuable data.

Is Sizmek’s Viewable Impression metric on the MDX platform meant for the buy side or sell side or both?

Viewable Impression can be used for both sides, but Sizmek is primarily buy-side client-based. We do have publisher business as well and many are interested in using our capabilities. Goes both ways.

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