Should TV Have A Viewability Standard, Too?

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Kevin Kohn, CEO at iQ Media.

Today’s living room looks a bit different than it did in the 1960s, or even the 1990s, but its focal point remains the same: the television.

While cutting the cord on traditional broadcast is indeed a very real thing, TV has not lost its relevance as a meaningful source of content. The living room of today simply has a few more devices now than it did 50 years ago, making TV a more digital experience than ever before.

It’s also a more connected one. With dozens of over-the-top (OTT) devices, smart TVs and mobile devices and thousands of channels to choose from, advertisers have much more to think about than just reaching audiences and making an emotional connection. They must also ensure they make literal connections across devices and apply what they learn about their efforts on one device to their efforts on others.

All of this begs the question: Should TV be held to the same standards as digital video?

For online video marketers, viewability standards, in particular, are both a must-have and a work in progress. As things currently stand, viewability is an indication of whether an ad has the opportunity to be seen. But for TV advertisers, viewability will need to mean more than that. As TV viewership continues to shift online to OTT services and connected devices, audience measurement models need to evolve with it.

The TV industry has historically relied on a broad, viewership-based understanding of TV performance, so moving to viewability’s far more acute level of measurement would be no small undertaking. But this move has the potential to put TV in a position to influence the way digital channels are measured for the first time.

It’s important to start by establishing a clear understanding of both the problem and opportunity. TV advertisers currently base their ad decisions on the likelihood of being seen, among other things. But, new viewability standards could allow them to make far more informed decisions based on more granular variables, such as whether their ads are presented clearly enough to be understood and absorbed by viewers, and how this might influence the likelihood of audiences taking action.

These standards would need to account for traditional paid TV ads – 30-second, 15-second and maybe even six-second spots – as well as event sponsorships, product placement and even naming rights on certain properties. And they would need to recognize that while advertisers’ on-screen time and space is shrinking and shifting, their expectations for exposure and results remain just as ambitious.

A handful of metrics out there attempt to offer this type of clarity, but they have their shortcomings. Some measure mere logo appearances, but don’t account for whether the logo is completely presented on the screen and at a size that would be naturally detected by the human eye. Logo measurement also does not account for how much time the logo must be present for a passive viewer to absorb it, even on a subconscious level.

Other metrics simply detect where brand mentions or appearances fall within the program and are reported by time stamp, independent of quality. These metrics don’t provide any clearer understanding of whether the brand placement was worthwhile.

Without standards for “grading” these paid brand instances and classifying them according to visibility and completeness, advertisers remain unable to attribute value to their ads, and the industry as a whole has no unified understanding of good vs. bad, as far as viewable impressions go.

Discrepancies in measurement standards are not acceptable on any channel, but leaving TV out of the equation suggests a lack of industry foresight. The networks, agencies and advertisers must be on the same page, with viewability measurement reported alongside reach and frequency.

The opportunity is great. Cracking the viewability code for TV could answer lingering questions for digital and put TV in a position to influence other channels. The largest opportunity would be for TV to take the reins and lay the groundwork for unified viewability standards across all channels, reflecting that advertisers, like their audiences, want to move freely between many channels.

Finally, the industry must create a universally accepted method of measurement. The GRP is an excellent source of understanding how many were reached and how much they were shown an ad, but it will never be able to answer whether TV ads were seen and understood. And it certainly won’t move beyond TV to answer the question the industry doesn’t yet dare to ask: How might this ad perform on other channels?

Follow iQ Media (@iQmediacorp) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Kev, I’ve kept an eye on iQ Media for the last 2 years reading snippets of the ever changing searchable world of real-time insights that your company seems to be spearheading. Your industry is an awesome roller coaster ride and it looks like you guys are becoming the sherpa for advertisers.

    I read your article about 10 times since it was posted last week and I’m fascinated by how “the industry must create a universally accepted method of measurement” as you stated. How will, as you say, “cracking the viewablitiy code” unfold into one universal instrument?

    The OTT and namely Netflix has spooked the big boys out so much that they’re ready to incorporate it into their cable bundles to stay relevant.–finance.html

    “We’re now looking at proposals for including Netflix in some services and beginning to learn the bundling part of the business,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a post-earnings webcast in July. “We’re interested in expanding that.” (yahoo news)

    There’s no ads yet before nor during Netflix content. I wonder once they’re done figuring out their bundling options if they’ll start to stick some ad spots in there according to the package a customer gets..

    Generally people can’t stand ads but maybe the 6 second ads are the future as you pose. If you think back to when the mp3 players took off, the radio industry freaked out and had to start advertising “listen to us, half the commercials than the other guys” and so on. Because we were hooking up our iPods to our old cassette decks and bypassing radio. That spawned radio stations going on a type of “shuffle mix” crossing multiple genres emulating the iPod feel. Comcast changed their look to “feel” like Netflix while searching for shows. A new structure is forming yet again so here’s my 2 cents…

    With LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter all following a friend of friend why doesn’t the AdWorld, let the people participate more in that same respect? Meaning, instead of the direct consumer thinking of themselves, open up a platform that allows consumers to see an ad, think of someone that might fit their lifestyle, recommend it to them by using their 2nd screen or a universal “chart method” that I didn’t invent yet – ha, and follow the sale cycle all the way to close. If the recommendation goes all the way to close, that initiator gets a reward. Then a loyalty program can be born out of that process.

    That’s one way of producing more action.

    Sorry, I tend to drift off into fantasy land but you get my point.

    Keep fighting the good fight bud. I’ll try to keep up.