Blog Series

Viewability with IAB

Last Thursday representatives from all sides of the Digital Marketing Industry gathered for an IAB Conference discussing the hot topic for 2015…Viewable Impressions! Viewability aims to correct market inefficiencies and bring greater transparency to the digital advertising economy.  Over the past 10 years, Digital has always been heralded as the most accountable media delivering unparalleled data insight and effectiveness measurement. 

This has been the driving force of huge growth in the Digital industry, with the most recent 2014 Adspend study showing growth figures of 40%. By welcoming Viewability into the measurement equation, the digital industry hopes to validate online investment and as a result see increased investment in the digital sector.

IAB Viewability

Firstly, what is defined as viewability?  

In the UK, Comscore along with the Media Rating Council state that viewability is 50% of display ad’s pixels must be viewable in the user’s browser for a least one second. From a media agency’s position, an ad that has no opportunity to be seen has no value. Industry focus is currently on the measurement of desktop in-page campaigns. Desktop in-stream and mobile will be the next stage. MOAT describes 4 reasons for non-viewable impressions:

  1. Out of sight
  2. Out of Focus
  3. Missed Opportunity (Area)  <50%
  4. Missed Opportunity (Time) <1 sec

This step towards mitigating low quality ad inventory is a key move in the journey to make digital advertising more directly comparable to TV based on GRPs. Following the UK's lead in developing a framework for viewable impressions, they recognised that both agencies and publishers will to need to prepare systems and process for the new standards, and guide advertisers through this unknown territory.

The US is leading the way towards making Viewability an accountable measurement in 2015. 

In Q4 of 2014 the US representative associations, 3MS made a statement that recommends marketeers, agencies, and publishers adhere to the following 7 principles during 2015:

  1. All billings to continue to be based on the number of Served Impressions, however these should be categorised into measured and non-measured.
  2. Available technologies have reported discrepancies of up 30-40%. Therefore measured impressions are to be held to a 70% viewability threshold.
  3. If the 70% viewability threshold is not achieved, then the publisher must make good with viewable impressions until that threshold is met.
  4. All make goods must be in the form off viewable impressions.
  5. For large formats, a viewable impression is counted if 30% of the ad is viewable for a minimum of 1 second.
  6. All transactions between buyers and sellers should use accredited vendors only.
  7. A buyer and seller should agree on a single measurement vendor ahead of time. The industry aims for discrepancies to be no greater that 10% between vendors in time.
Currently in Ireland, 46% of digital ads are not seen as per FLE Marsh. 

Premium buy viewability is currently at 62% whereas Ad Network/RTB buys are as low as 42%. When combining both Premium and Network buys agencies should look for a blended viewability rate of 54%. Although viewability is still in nascent stage of life in the Irish Market, joint feeling is that we should aim for 70% viewability across advertising campaigns. This follows in the footsteps of UK and US whereby the viewability threshold is 70% and when this is not met, publishers must ‘make-good‘ with viewable impressions until the 70% is reached.  

IAB Viewability

Highlighted in the FLE study, was the fact that the German market seems to be leading the charge with the highest viewability rates in Europe with a blended rate of 71%. FLE Marsh consultant John Dunne, cited they fact that they are early adopters of viewability, that they have a good understanding of the technology, constant collaboration by both sellers and buyers in defining viewability, combined with the commitment from publishers to optimise their sites with viewability. The German IAB recently set up a technical commission in order to define a guideline on measuring viewable impressions and sets parameters for comparable measurement. The guideline is currently in progress so it would be great to see how this impacts the market when implemented.

MOAT made the valid point on Thursday that viewability alone is not the answer. Creative, content and placement among other factors all play a part in campaign success. If anything, viewable impressions will allow advertisers to become more effective through validation of their spend allocation. 

All this begs the question….will there ever be 100% viewability?  There is no straight answer to this.

At best, we as an industry need to develop standards and regulations to embrace viewability and take the much needed step towards a more efficient and transparent digital marketplace. I personally feel that Irish digital marketplace needs to create its own committee similar to JICWEBS in the UK and 3MS in the US, with representatives from all parties within the industry that acts on the behalf of stakeholders to push forth standards and frameworks for all.

IAB Viewability


Currently there are several in-market products available to advertisers for tracking viewability. Some currently in use in the Irish Market are Doubleclick ‘Active View’, Comscore vCE, Integral Ad Science and Alenty. A full list of these approved vendors are available here.

Google Adwords have taken steps to adopting the IAB viewability recommendations by implementing a new buy offering in the Adwords interface.

Only this week, Google announced that advertisers can now bid on inventory on a Viewable Impression Basis and pay only for these impressions. The intention is that this will be also be rolled out also within Doubleclick Bid Manager, however all the networks and vendors need to firstly align their technology in order to make this happen. Although this might take some time, these are encouraging first steps towards a more robust viewability offering

Finally, whilst viewability is unquestionably an important issue, it only one of a range of many that industry stakeholders must keep in focus in order to maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving marketplace.