GroupM sheds light on its updated viewability standards for display & video ads

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WPP’s GroupM, the world’s biggest media buyer, announced new, heightened standards for ad viewability last week and is now sharing more details.

The move highlights the influence of major advertisers like Unilever (one of GroupM’s key clients), Procter & Gamble and others who’ve been complaining loudly about digital advertising standards and transparency of their agencies. It also underscores changing content consumption habits, with more time spent swiping or scrolling through mobile feeds.

A major concern when viewability standards were first being considered was ads being served “below the fold” on desktop. Today, it’s the speed with which users fly past in-feed ads on their phones, as well as questions of viewer intentions with autoplay video ads.

In 2014, GroupM established that 100 percent of a display ad’s pixels must be in view, but there was no time limit placed on the viewability. In response to the prominence of in-feed ads and mobile scrolling behavior, GroupM is now requiring 100 percent of pixels be in view for at least a full second.

The industry standard for viewability backed by the Media Ratings Council (MRC) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is that at least 50 percent of its pixels be in view for at least one second (for video, 50 percent of a player must be in view for at least two seconds). It isn’t so much that an ad was viewed, but that it had the opportunity to be viewed.

“This standard gives a fair opportunity for the ad to be seen and for the brand to have an impact on the consumer,” wrote GroupM’s Susan Schiekofer, chief digital investment officer, yesterday in response to a Wall Street Journal report that the group had softened its standards for video.

GroupM’s video viewability standards:

  • Native and outstream video ads must be 100 percent in view and play to at least 50 percent completion. They can play with or without the sound, and be autoplayed or user-initiated.
  • In-feed video ads must be 100 percent in view, with or without sound, autoplayed or user-initiated. There is currently no duration threshold, but GroupM says it is studying it with clients, media partners and tech vendors over the next few months.
  • Pre-roll and mid-roll video requirements remain unchanged: 100 percent in view, 50 percent complete, played at the user’s initiation with sound on.

“Neither of these social/native video metrics is intended to suggest comparability of these newer video ad formats to premium video — or that the social video ads be considered ‘like TV,’” said Schiekofer. “In fact, the value of video ads experienced without sound and without the user’s initiation is valued at a discount relative to premium video.”

GroupM says it is analyzing and measuring more than 100 data points with DoubleVerify, Moat and IAS across Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat to develop future social and news feed video duration metrics.

“The industry continues to strive for viewability metrics that help level the playing field between digital and TV,” said Aaron Fetters, senior vice president, comScore. “These enhanced metrics will help marketers properly evaluate the relative value of each screen, and the context in which a campaign is delivered. Only then can media buyers build truly cost-effective campaigns and execute on impactful cross-media strategies.”

Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer of Unilever, one of GroupM’s key clients and a vocal advocate for higher standards, said in a statement, “We support GroupM’s ongoing assessment in this space to reflect changes in consumer behavior and available ad formats, and to ensure full accountability and verification.”

It remains to be seen if other holding companies and agencies will follow GroupM’s lead or whether the MRC will adopt tougher viewability standards.

Recent related articles:

Facebook opens its ad network’s video ads to independent viewability checks

Google’s YouTube to undergo MRC audits for video viewability measurement

Twitter adds 3rd-party measurement for viewability & audience verification

About The Author

As Third Door Media’s paid media reporter, Ginny Marvin writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies and can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.


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