Viewability: A Currency, Not A Metric

index exchange dohertyThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Will Doherty, VP of business development at Index Exchange.

In order to effectively leverage viewability in a programmatic marketplace, buyers and sellers need to start thinking of it as a currency and not as a metric.

Looking ahead, viewability will be an even more important aspect of all programmatic exchanges, but for it to be an effective feature of any transaction, both buyers and sellers need to agree on what constitutes viewability and who – which vendor and methodology – will be responsible for measuring it.

There is an asynchronous data problem in how viewability is being leveraged in today’s programmatic marketplace. In many cases, buyers are measuring viewability and providing directional analysis regarding what was or was not in view. However, publishers have no way of understanding how some inventory is considered in view while other ad placements are not.

This is further complicated by the reality that viewability is not simply a matter of placing ads above the fold. Different screen sizes and consumer behavior will have a large impact on what ultimately is considered to be a viewed impression. Compound this with the reality that most measurement companies can only provide a post-mortem after the impression has been sold, making it very hard for buyers and sellers to trade on viewability without a lot of friction.

Currently buyers and sellers use competing technologies to determine which ads are in view. These technologies have different strengths, methodologies and definitions of viewability. In some cases, they may have multiple definitions of viewability based on a buyer’s particular preference. This makes the idea of paying for only in-view impressions extremely hard to reconcile, as neither party is using the same definition to determine which placements meet criteria for a viewable impression.

There has, and always will be, a constant battle on what constitutes a viewable impression. Viewability correlates to influence, impact and engagement with your audience. For some brands and campaigns, half a second is not enough time to have any meaningful impact with your audience. Brands that are looking to really command attention will have to have a transparent conversation with publishers about what they require as a buyer, affording the seller a genuine opportunity deliver.

If we use the analogy of the financial marketplace and take viewability as a currency, the exchanges play a very important but agnostic role in facilitating transactions between buyers and sellers. NASDAQ and NYSE do not trade in just US Dollars, they support multiple currencies, which is what the ad exchanges need to do with viewability to bring more buyers and sellers together in agreement. Exchanges must begin to understand the strategic role of viewability and not just choose a single standard.

There are technical challenges with implementing this kind of agnostic and neutral marketplace, but the role of the exchange is to bring buyers and sellers together to make transactions based on their own business interests. Viewability will always create a debate, and an exchange will have to remain flexible to satisfy both parties on either side of the transaction.

But one of the beauties of programmatic is that it doesn’t have to be a rigid marketplace. If we push for a universal standard of what constitutes viewability, we’ll likely never get there, and in the end we’ll limit the potential for what we’ve built and limit the number of meaningful transactions between buyers and sellers.

Exchanges will need to become the neutral facilitators between buyers and sellers and support all currencies to allow both sides to create deals based on a common and agreed-upon tender. Buyers and sellers can agree on the third party that will measure viewability and structure pricing based on that measurement before executing deals with these considerations. The exchange will become a neutral clearinghouse for these deals.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article – for Viewability to be taken seriously as a currency, the MRC/IAB needs to improve the value by changing the definition from 30% of creative viewable in 1 sec / 50% for 2 sec for video to “100% for at least 2 seconds” for all. Making the definition more complex than it needs to be makes it more difficult for tech solutions to evolve.