The last piece on viewability standards you’ll read (this month)

Mike Margolin is director of audience strategy at RPA

The maelstrom over digital ad viewability, and the role of the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) minimum standards, has been fascinating, promising and, now, exhausting. You’ve probably already read about this plenty and possibly even picked sides.

Most frustrating is the posturing among media agency leaders and marketers, which has included calls to throw out the MRC’s standards and to create alternative minimum-viewability standards (including 100 percent, which is technically impossible). Also confounding has been the complete disregard by some agencies and marketers of the concept of supply and demand by expecting publishers to pick up the tab on 100 percent viewability.

In an ideal world, then, this is how we’d be better off thinking about the topic.

Consider ad impact over delivery.
Does the technical definition of viewability really matter much in the greater picture? In nearly all cases, marketers should prioritize media partners and placements by how well they deliver the greatest brand or business value over simply delivering guaranteed views. Some media partners with lower viewability actually drive better post-click conversions. And some media partners with higher viewability don’t lift brand consideration metrics very well.

Success is a many-colored thing.
From a TV-centric perspective, it would seem that delivery of ads might seem to be a minimum – a foundational aspect that drives campaign performance. “An ad which is non-viewable cannot have value,” the argument goes. The reality, though, is that very few successful marketers use digital display ads primarily to simply deliver a message upon view. Great digital marketers look for ads to drive impact: post-click conversions, a change in brand perception, increases in consideration and more.

Digital ad measurement offers many shades of gray, and presents many varied optimization opportunities. Marketers who take a black-or-white approach to viewability may miss ROI opportunities that come with considering a range of metrics that, in concert, work to maximize value to the brand.

Be thankful for what you’ve got.
For many years, all digital marketers bought some ads that were non-viewable and, thus, had no value. We just didn’t know when and where they were non-viewable.

Today, analytics firms such as IAS and MOAT provide valuable insights on viewability on a publisher and placement level, so we actually have dramatically greater transparency and control over this valuable metric. Yes, there is some cost involved (both in using these companies’ technology and in the buyers’ and analysts’ time), but in most cases this is a powerful and cost-effective new optimization lever for marketers and agencies. In fact, it has changed how we work with – and value – many media partners.

So let’s get down to business.
Our industry has made big strides in bringing visibility and control to this underserved aspect of digital marketing. The MRC and ad-verification firms have raised accountability and incentivized media publishers and partners to care about delivering quality impressions. Opportunities for optimizing media investments have never been richer for digital marketers. It’s time to stop bickering over what the delivery standards should be and focus on optimizing for business results.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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