Results tagged “MRC” from IABlog

The Fourth Quarter Countdown to Viewability

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Marketers love digital media, plain and simple. The digital platform gives marketers opportunities to create conversations and consumer relationships that heretofore were not possible. Brands are being built and results are being generated due to digital’s expansion within the marketing mix.

But marketers are also frustrated by the lack of “viewability”. In 2012, according to various sources, 1.8 trillion display ads were paid for, but could not be seen. We are close to realizing a material improvement to this fundamental issue: viewability. Yes, the viewable impression is nearly here. The Media Rating Council (MRC) expects to lift its Viewable Impression Advisory by the end of this year, and at that time marketers will eagerly start buying digital media on viewable metrics. Publishers and agencies, we hope you’re ready.

Marketers reportedly waste billions of dollars annually in display ads that are not viewable. ANA’s Board of Directors and the larger marketing community have demanded that viewability become the basis for digital currency and transactions. 

In February 2011, when ANA joined with IAB and the 4A’s to start the Making Measurement Make Sense initiative, we recognized a tremendous shortfall in digital spending productivity. We saw a substantial confidence gap in understanding the value of marketing investment in display and video advertising. We were horrified that the media that was “supposed to be the most accountable” was turning out to be the least accountable. With great anticipation, we are now just a few months away from resolving a significant driver of this dilemma.

The foundation of this excitement is the overdue shift from served impressions to viewable impressions. It gives marketers the assurance that consumers get to see the ad that they paid to place. Critically, it opens the opportunity for apples-to-apples cross-platform comparisons that will increase marketer confidence in the development of intelligent and capable multi-screen marketing plans. It provides marketers with the accountability they need to embrace digital more enthusiastically. There’s also a great benefit for publishers, agencies, and others that succeed in making the transformation to viewable, as they will become the preferred partners of these hungry marketers. The upside is enormous for all those that make the shift.  

We recognize, however, that the move to viewable is rattling many businesses to their cores. Publishers need to adopt SafeFrame to increase the proportion of their inventory that is measurable for viewability, and to adjust the very constitution of their operations to manage this important currency change.

We understand that the system will be imperfect. Refinement of viewable impression transactions will continue even after the MRC Advisory is lifted. For example, new complexities in discrepancy resolution will need to be explored and resolved

There is no turning back. The marketing community has waited too long and wasted too much money not to make the leap to viewable. We cannot be frozen by fear or perfectionism either. Without forward motion, we will undermine the advancements already established. We will also undercut future enhancements that will make digital media a more appealing brand-building investment for marketers.

The viewable impression will be the foundation of fundamental innovations such as the Digital GRP. Creating a GRP that is comparable to that in other media is crucial for the evolution of cross-platform analytics. Marketer’s inherent challenge to enhance integrated marketing would be dramatically reduced by a “common GRP.” This would facilitate improved decision-making and resolve cornerstone issues such as marketing mix modeling and media budgeting decisions. Combined with the growing use of the common coding power of Ad-ID, marketing measurement for publishers, agencies, and marketers would be turbocharged.

For the digital media industry, the only question is how fast we can implement these historic changes. The MRC is bounding onwards, completing the work needed to lift the advisory and continuing to guide us toward a more accountable media marketplace. For agencies, forward motion means being ready to rely on the clarity provided by these new metrics to advise and act in the best interests of marketers. For publishers, it means adopting SafeFrame now and being ready to satisfy marketer demand for viewable impression transactions by the end of the year. 

This is the age of accountability. If you’re ready to meet the demands of the day, you’ll be greatly rewarded. But if you’re not a participant, you’ll run the risk of being left on the sidelines. Let’s do this all together and move the industry decidedly forward. 

About the Author

bliodice.jpgBob Liodice

Bob Liodice is President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of National Advertisers






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GRPs are coming at you…like a train,” warned George Ivie, CEO and Executive Director at the Media Rating Council (MRC). Presenting in a webinar the IAB hosted Monday, April 15, Ivie offered some insight on the buy-side push for certified viewable impressions that will eventually play a role in the all important cross-media GRPs. 

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The most difficult aspect of adopting a viewable impression has been the lack of a standard way to measure viewability, especially for ads that are rendered within iframes. The IAB’s recently released SafeFrame specification and open source reference implementation is the solution, but time is running out and the industry faces some challenges that must be overcome. 

Here’s what you need to know about viewability and SafeFrame:

The Buyer’s demand for viewable impressions is old news
Companies, such as measurement verification services, have been asking the MRC to audit their methods for measuring viewability of buyers’ ads on publisher placements long before viewability became a buzzword in today’s media.

3MS is a cross-industry coalition committed to developing brand-building digital metrics and cross-platform measurement solutions. The first principle of the initiative is to help the industry shift from currency based on “served” impressions to currency based on “viewable” impressions.

In November of last year, the MRC issued an advisory that outlines some of the limitations in measuring viewability and asked the buying and selling communities to refrain from engaging in transactions that involve viewable impressions as a currency, ideally, until the issues can be addressed. 

In Q4 2013, the MRC will lift its advisory “and the floodgates will open,” advised Ivie in a review of the MRC timeline for addressing viewability measurement. At that time, the marketplace will move on, with or without us.

Viewability measurement is fragmented
As already mentioned, several marketplace vendors are coming to the MRC to request audits on their methods for measuring viewability. The MRC is legally required to honor such requests. However, with no formal guidelines describing this new counting procedure, each company is validated against the MRC’s own stringent methodological standards and then reviewed against the company’s audited abilities.

The proliferation of methodologies for measuring viewability is actually a good thing, in that it showcases the industry’s ability to innovate and adjust to the needs of the market. However, these different methodologies represent a fragmented marketplace. Fragmentation in digital advertising has always created friction and interfered with the flow of advertising budgets.

Compounding the issue is the high level of variability across vendors. In a test on 22 live campaigns involving more than 3 billion impressions, viewable rates varied from a high of more than 78% to a low of 7%. Several reasons exist for not being able to measure viewability, but the leading cause of such variable rates was the inability to measure from within cross-domain iframes.

SafeFrame is a window into viewability
A cross-domain iframe is essentially the webpage of one server inside a container on the webpage of a different server. Measuring viewability under these conditions is the technical equivalent of trying figure out where you are in the world from within a sound and lightproof box—a task that is nearly impossible without the ability to escape the box or communicate with someone outside of it.

Some methodologies can circumvent the iFrame to a limited extent, however, with regard to current accreditations on viewability conducted by the MRC, Ivie notes that “NONE of the vendors can see ALL of the inventory.” 

While no amount of technology or distinct methodologies will likely ever be able to measure ALL inventory, the 2012 release of IAB SafeFrame 1.0 can help companies close the gap on viewable variability. 

IAB SafeFrame is a cross-domain iframe with an API that enables communication between the content in the SafeFrame and the hosting webpage. With SafeFrame in place, security is maintained while communication lifts limitations on functionality, including the ability to measure viewability on ads. 
Explaining that future accreditations on viewability will be based on a standard currently in development, Ivie predicts that SafeFrame will likely play an important role in many successful accreditations.

Challenges exist
IAB SafeFrame is a long-awaited solution to addressing issues clouding viewability measurement in cross-domain iframes. Once publishers have implemented SafeFrame, they can achieve transparency while maintaining control over the iframe-contained content served to their pages. Ad servers or vendors can also measure viewability with SafeFrame but must develop functionality to take advantage of the SafeFrame API.

The IAB has identified 3 key challenges the marketplace faces as we enter a phase of SafeFrame adoption.

1. Complexity for publishers with multiple properties: For publisher companies that own multiple properties, implementing SafeFrame across all sites is a time-consuming task made more complex by the fact that each site may operate differently. 

To address this challenge:
  • Focus on implementing SafeFrame on high-value properties first
  • Consider working with your sell-side ad server to implement SafeFrame to simplify implementation so that all you need is a JavaScript tag you can distribute to your sites that in turn implements the SafeFrame
2. Lack of testing tools for vendors: Buy-side vendors (viewability and rich media) won’t be able to capture SafeFrame data until their SafeFrame functionality is properly implemented. Vendors need a testing tool to help them with proper implementation 

To address this challenge:
  • IAB is developing a testing tool vendors can use to test their SafeFrame-enabled tags
  • Create tags that work with the SafeFrame API and test them in IAB’s testing tool when it’s available
3. Lack of established benchmarks: The market needs viewability benchmarks based on test data from SafeFrame enabled environments. Having just been released in February of this year, very few SafeFrame implementations exist for testing. 

To address this challenge:
  • Publishers should implement SafeFrame as soon as possible and begin collecting data to show what they can measure with SafeFrame
  • Vendors should use SafeFrame tags with publishers who have implemented SafeFrame and begin     collecting data that they can compare with publishers
  • Select publishers and vendors should consider working with 3MS and the MRC to re-run pilot tests that establishes comparative benchmarks to those gathered in the aforementioned MRC viewability tests
IAB can help
Ivie noted that the MRC can help a little, but that the IAB can help a lot and companies should lean on the IAB to move forward with SafeFrame adoption.

To move forward, the IAB is calling for participation in the following:
  • Publishers: Help the IAB define a “Publisher Onboarding Guide” for the industry to use as they work toward SafeFrame implementation
  • Vendors: Create tags that work with the SafeFrame API and test them in the IAB’s testing tool when it’s available
  • Publishers and Vendors: Contact MRC about participating in a round of viewability testing where SafeFrame is used. Particularly useful in these tests are companies that have already participated in earlier rounds of testing where SafeFrame wasn’t used
There is a train coming; we can’t stop it, but at least with SafeFrame you’ll be able to see it. 


About the Author 

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Steve Sullivan (with contribution from Katie Stroud)

Steve Sullivan is VP of Advertising Technology at the IAB, and on Twitter at @SteveSullivan32.