Havas Media: Viewability standards ‘kind of a joke’

Havas Media, a division of Havas Media Group, is moving viewability of ads it buys front and center.

Adam Kasper, chief media officer at Havas Media of North America, said the agency isn’t ready to demand 100 percent viewability across all its ad buying (as GroupM has done). But he was adamant that the current industry standard for viewability doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s kind of a joke,” Kasper said. “It doesn’t really offer us anything. Fifty percent for one second? What does that do for you? It needs to be 100 percent, and it needs to be longer than one second. I very much want to see it this year.”

The issue has been a big source of friction between advertisers and media sellers. The former understandably don’t want their ads to go unseen. But publishers have expressed concern that because of differing results from companies that measure viewability — and because of the fact that definitions of viewability itself vary widely — 100 percent viewability is unrealistic. They complain that advertisers want more guarantees but are unwilling to pay for them at a time when there’s already downward pressure on digital ad rates.

Havas is taking a step toward full viewability with a deal struck with engagement-based advertising network TrueX, an ad tech company whose product gives consumers access to content in exchange for some type of interaction with an ad. Havas’ clients include Fidelity, LVMH and Sears.

The Havas announcement follows similar news from Horizon Media and TrueX. “Brands and certainly the corresponding agencies are becoming much more focused on matters of viewability, human attention, pricing attention and creativity,” said Sean Finnegan, chief strategy officer of TrueX. “There is almost an infinite supply of inventory, but it comes down to: Did it really matter; did someone see their ad?”

Viewability has become a front-burner issue for agencies. Evidence has mounted that a sizable percentage of online ads — as much as half — are going unseen. While the Media Ratings Council, which sets industry benchmarks, has declared that at least 50 percent of an ad should be viewable for at least one second, some agencies and their clients are demanding more.

Kasper said Havas recognizes that technological limitations make 100 percent viewability for all media buying unrealistic for now. Not all clients have explicitly required it; for some, scale trumps viewability. Meantime, Havas has been testing TrueX’s platform with some clients and now plans to make it available to all of them, Kasper said. “We’re not moving all our media buying to TrueX but we expect to scale this pretty rapidly. There’s a big marketplace out there.”


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