The Past and Present of Viewability


Viewability has emerged as a particularly hot topic in the last year or two. However, the reality is that the concept of viewability and ad verification is not new. It has been kicking around since the advent of advertising. Advertisers have sought to get their ads in front of consumer eyeballs, whether through primetime television ads or twenty foot tall out-of-home advertisements, since the day advertising was first invented. What makes the debate about viewability so robust today is the impact that digital advertising has had on the industry and the unique concerns digital brings to the table.

Conducting broadcast verification is standard practice for television advertising. After all, it’s quite reasonable to make sure that you’re getting what you paid for—especially if that purchase comes with a hefty primetime price tag. But for the most part, 100% baseline viewability is assumed for traditional television. If the consumer chooses to take a snack break during a commercial, so be it, but advertisers at least know that their commercials are running in full view in their allotted slots at the agreed-upon price.

The “snack break” factor has never been explicitly outlined by television advertisers, but it is essentially priced into the media cost anyway. The first and last slots of a commercial break are more expensive than the middle slot precisely because of this phenomenon. As digital emerged as a channel equally popular to television however, the tremendous flexibility of web design resulted in a shift from standardized advertising formats to ad inventory that could be implemented in a myriad of ways within any and all digital content. if the purchased ad placement loaded in the browser, but the consumer never read down far enough in the article to bring it into view? With more real estate than ever on which to place print, imagery and ads, advertisers suddenly found themselves face to face with viewability and fraud concerns. And they weren’t (and still aren’t) thrilled about it.

Although viewability and fraud are supply-side issues and not buy-side, advertisers typically expect programmatic technology partners and publishers to protect their media investments against non-viewable impressions and ad fraud. And while sometimes related, fraud, viewability and brand safety are in fact three distinct drivers of impression quality that each require their own standards and implementation expertise.

We recommend asking any prospective technology partners about their quality offerings—even beyond viewability—before selecting a programmatic platform of record (PPoR). Below are some questions advertisers can leverage to do their due diligence in the fight against non-viewable ads.

Key Questions to Ask

  • What is included in your quality offering portfolio?
  • What solutions are available when it comes to Fraud, Viewability and Brand Safety?
  • Do quality offerings run in conjunction with each other?
  • What additional costs/add-ons will I need to pay for each quality measure?
  • Is measurement and verification validated by an accredited, independent third-party?
  • Do quality measures cover all inventory and channel types?

Although viewability standards and tools still have a long way to go, asking the right questions upfront and picking a programmatic partner with safeguards in place to protect media investments is a crucial first step towards a future of 100% viewability. For more on viewability, check out our 2015 Advertising Fraud Report.