A Clearer Look At Mobile Ad Viewability

Chris CrumAdvertising

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The subject of ad viewability continues to be a contentious one throughout the industry, and many are simply confused by various elements of the debate, and rightfully so. It's pretty confusing. There are so many factors and parties that come into play it's pretty much a big mess.

There are organizations trying to change that, but in some cases, it's only adding more layers to an already complex discussion. Last week, we attempted to provide something of a round-up of some of the latest discussion points.

While the viewability issue spans across devices, mobile is a major part. The Mobile Majority released a new study on mobile ad viewability based on IAB and MRC standards as well as its own internal architecture in an apparent attempt to clarify what's going on here. The company says it didn't set out to define terms of the viewability debate for an entire industry, but considers its study, which was originally intended for internal use, "the first solid framework for a viewability debate that is already underway."

The study, it says, enables advertisers, ad tech partners and other stakeholders to discuss the viewability issue using "a common set of assumptions."

The findings are packaged in a relatively easy-to-read infographic.

"There is broad agreement within the industry on what viewability is, but until now, it has been difficult for stakeholders to physically see what needs to happen in order for viewability to be achieved," said Matthew Russo, Lead Educator at The Mobile Majority. "This infographic maps the complexities out and gives industry stakeholders a way to define the process, understand how to track what is happening, and identify the potential opportunities for error. By breaking down each step and putting it in a visual format, we were able to illustrate the major bottlenecks within the current set-up and validate our approach of integrating each step of the process. That's how we've been able to produce results higher than most of the industry averages."

The Mobile Majroity CEO Rob Emrich, whom we recently interviewed about Twitter's syndicated ads, talked about mobile ad viewability in a comment on a recent Wall Street Journal article.

"There isn’t a simple solution for this problem, due to the complex and circuitous path by which mobile ads are built and trafficked," he wrote. "What’s more, the journey from creation to an actual viewed ad is perplexed by a number of moving parts managed and maintained by far too many vendors and commensurate associated fees. This drives up complexity and cost on top of media which hurts both publishers and buyers. For instance, to run any single large scale mobile campaign, a buyer would need somewhere between 4 and 10 vendors. At the very least, they would need vendors to manage strategy, creative technology, ad serving, bidding, targeting, data activation, measurement, reporting / BI and fraud detection. Every time there is a handoff, whether by computer or more often (still) by humans, of an ad from one vendor to another, there is a loss of data or at least some sort of compromise in quality. Sorting out accountability for final results becomes impossible because no one vendor can be blamed or held accountable. This leads to an opaque and broken marketplace that no one individual participant can fix."

"Not only has this created an inefficient system, a distrust in the technology itself has emerged," he added. "This is because viewability reporting is just as chaotically layered as the building of an ad. 3rd party viewability vendors often produce inconsistent viewability reports originating from different sets of available data from different layers of the full ad technology stack. This in turn confuses buyers even more and creates a compounding loss of confidence."

Back in December, the IAB released its “State of Viewability Transaction 2015″ report aimed at offering guidance on how to manage the “shift of digital media’s ‘audience currency’ to 100 percent viewability."

It said 100% viewability measurement simply isn’t possible. Instead, it recommends 70% as the best threshold for buyers and sellers. 2015, it says, will be a “year of transition.”

Since the IAB’s report, viewability has only become a more hotly debated topic. Advertisers are demanding more viewability while publishers struggle to deliver and maintain that advertisers are sometimes not seeing the big picture about the difficulty of meeting such demand, or in some cases even the validity of the data they’re seeing. More on all of this here.

Image via The Mobile Majority

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.