The 5 ‘OH S#!T’ Moments That Brought Us Viewability

Over the years, conversations about viewability have escalated from a whisper to a roar. It’s become the buzz-iest of all buzzwords. The hottest of all topics.

It may seem like viewability popped up overnight, but the road that got us here was longer and bumpier than you might think—full of what we’re calling “OH S#!T Moments.” These moments started with a simple question (“is my ad being seen?”) that sparked an exploration of new standards and best practices to keep the advertising industry moving forward.

Lucky for us, some smart people and organizations recognized the value of quality, in-view impressions for brands. And thus, viewability was born.

In case this is the first time viewability has landed on your desk, we’ve compiled a brief (and hopefully entertaining) history of how it all started. Take a look-back at the most formative OH S#!T Moments that gave us viewability:

OH S#!T Moment #1: Wait! What about measurement?

In the 2000s, digital media offered advertisers a bounty of measurable and effective opportunities to reach consumers. Early campaign measurement embraced impressions and clicks—but the industry slowly realized that these metrics didn’t equate to quality.

Leading industry organizations (like the 4A’s, ANA and IAB) responded by founding the Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative in 2011. 3MS set out to revolutionize digital media measurement, planning and transaction with the goal of making it more valuable to advertisers. Out of those conversations grew a heightened concern that perhaps not all digital ads were being seen…at all!

In 2012 the IAB launched SafeFrame 1.0, a new mechanism to measure whether or not an ad was seen. The development of SafeFrame highlighted the need for industry-wide standards in viewability. 3MS jumped at the opportunity to propose the first standard for “viewable” ads—that 49.9% must be in-view for one second. Things were looking up for digital advertisers…

OH S#!T Moment #2: Madison Avenue’s worst nightmare

Much to the dismay of digital publishers, comScore released research in 2013 revealing that 54% of online display ads are never viewed. Whoa! According to a Wall Street Journal article, “These ads simply weren’t seen, the result of technical glitches, user habits and fraud.” All advertisers heard was money being flushed down the toilet—exactly half their budgets, if we’re counting.

Suddenly, viewability became an industry-wide obsession. A number of viewability measurement vendors—including Moat, IAS, DoubleVerify and comScore—flooded the market, offering to verify in-view impressions. They even turned to the Media Ratings Council (MRC), the premier organization for measuring ads, to request audits of their methodologies.

OH S#!T Moment #3: We need standards!

In 2014 the MRC published their Web Viewability Guidelines. This was the first time a respected measurement organization put exact terms to what is considered “viewable.” The MRC’s guidelines decreed that viewable display ads require at least 50% of pixels viewable for one continuous second (or two continuous seconds for video). Coincidentally, this was only slightly different from 3MS’s original proposal. The MRC also launched an accreditation program to ensure viewability measurement vendors enforced the new standards.

This moment marked the true beginning of viewability as we currently know it. Viewability was now mainstream and most marketers placed more value on viewed impressions vs. served impressions.

OH S#!T Moment #4: Can we take this to-go?

As mobile device penetration became ubiquitous, marketers extended their viewability concerns. In response, third-party analytics companies—Moat and IAS—raced to develop scaleable, in-app viewability measurement solutions for mobile. It wasn’t long before the MRC joined in, releasing the industry’s first Mobile Viewability Guidelines in 2016. This reinforced the same web guidelines but specified that apps, feeds and non-feed environments were subject to the same standards.

While mobile standards solidified, savvy marketers started to demand 100% viewability (with verification). Some publishers saw this coming earlier than others…

OH S#!T Moment #5: Viewable impressions, please!

Some publishers recognized the need for more assurance around viewability, and responded with new advertising products that delivered transparency. Mobile leaders–like Facebook, Google and Pandora–started transacting against viewability on both desktop and mobile using a “vCPM” model.

Pandora announced in June 2016 that advertisers can transact against 100% in-view impressions with measurement provided by Moat. This gave our brand partners a new level of security about the quality of their ads across desktop and mobile, display and video. Advertisers responded positively.

What’s Next?

The last five years saw a major shift in the accepted currency of digital ads from a “served” impression to a “viewed” impression. These important moments have helped arm marketers with better ways to measure campaign effectiveness across platforms.

But while we’ve come a long way, viewability has one more OH S#!T Moment before the industry can put it to rest. Publishers still need to scale in-app measurement –and, as the IAB pointed out, the ability to scale depends solely on the industry’s adoption of a unitary viewability standard.

The current lack of consensus in the industry has created huge operational inefficiencies for publishers–as has the need for vendor-specific SDKs to enable in-app measurement. Integrating multiple SDKs within the same application impacts app performance and data transmission. For this reason many in the industry are supporting the development and use of an open-source standard SDK to streamline mobile measurement while driving transparency and scale.

Overall, one thing is clear: in today’s ever-changing digital landscape, cross collaboration will be key to creating mobile measurement solutions that work for all. To learn more about Pandora’s viewability offering and upcoming release of our new Visual Ad Experience, a suite of products that redefine the mobile impression while providing enhanced engagement metrics,CLICK HERE

Back to all insights