Marketers Push Back on MRC Ad Viewability Standards

by Michela Galante , AdForum

The online ad industry is going through a transition. Increasingly, marketers and advertising agencies are insisting they should pay only for ads that actually appear on users’ screens, as opposed to parts of web pages people never see.

To most across the industry, the concept of buying and selling only “viewable” ads makes complete sense. The problem is, the industry can’t agree on what “viewable” actually means.

In an attempt to set standards, the Media Ratings Council and the Interactive Advertising Bureau last year issued viewable ad measurement “guidelines” they hoped would be adopted by the entire industry. According to those guidelines, a video ad should only be deemed viewable if 50% of it is visible on a user’s screen for at least two consecutive seconds. For display ads one second would suffice, the MRC said.

But some marketers say those definitions aren’t adequate, and they’re simply not prepared to use them. Ad buying agency GroupM, for example, now expects the ad sellers it works with to meet its own viewability standard. For video it expects at least 50% of an ad to be played while in-view; the video player’s sound must be turned on throughout; and the video play must be user-initiated. For display ads, the company expects 100% to be in-view for at least 1 second.

“Our standard was built by our clients. When they heard the MRC guidelines they said they were unnacceptable, so we got together with our clients and designed this standard together,” said Ari Bluman, chief digital investment officer for GroupM’s North America region. “GroupM agencies are very clear on this. There is one way we buy; we don’t have multiple standards,” Mr. Bluman added.

GroupM isn’t the only buyer shunning the MRC’s definition. Executives from other major agencies say they and their clients expect more than one or two seconds’ worth of exposure for their ad dollars as well. Some said they expect the existing MRC requirements will ultimately be changed. Read more: http://on.wsj.com/1BhtRI2

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