Trading on Viewability Guidelines

In partnership with the UK advertiser trade body ISBA and Goodstuff we’ve developed a global first – guidelines to get you started with trading on viewability. We believe this should be a key build on the industry’s digital supply chain programme in 2018. We also think it is an essential part of the future of brand advertising.

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We are proud to announce the development of our guidelines to help advertisers trade on viewability. We’ve developed them with the independent media agency Goodstuff and ISBA to act as a catalyst encouraging advertisers to take this trading strategy forward.


The guidelines are a global first – no other market has such a framework – so we want to ensure they are a dynamic document that can be updated as we get feedback from the market and as the approach is increasingly adopted in 2018, as we are sure it will be.


How can we be so confident in making that prediction? Well, it has become something of a cliché when making predictions to say, ‘the future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed’. In this case, though, we think William Gibson’s remark is wholly applicable.


The US Media Ratings Council gave ‘viewability’ the green light as a trading criterion for online ads some years ago, and it is well known in the industry that several global players have implemented this model, including Unilever and Proctor & Gamble. There is also the precedent that, in 2015, the largest media agency in Austria, Mediacom, persuaded a majority of publishers to sell their inventory on the basis of an independent viewability definition agreed by many of the leading advertisers in that market.


Group M have also made an announcement about their global viewability standards for Display and Video across both social and publisher websites. Being aware that negotiations are already in progress between the larger members of the ecosystem can only help to clear the path for smaller clients and agencies to start adopting this mode of trading.


The guidelines are designed to be short, concise and informative in order to help you assess whether to adopt this approach and how you might apply it to your brand. We won’t repeat them all here, as you can request them from the link on this page, but they address common misconceptions and misunderstandings on such topics as ‘Does viewability apply to direct response advertising?’ In fact, our position is that it applies primarily to brand spend, although some advertisers may find the concept useful also when optimising and attributing digital media in the course of conversion.


While I am a firm believer that this is the future, we need to be aware that until this method of trading becomes widely adopted and established there are both potential challenges and areas where care is needed in adopting this model. For example, publishers may charge premiums, and it may lead to you as a brand needing to reduce the number of formats you work with. In addition, some publishers may find it difficult to forecast the extent to which they would need to over-deliver impressions in order to achieve an agreed viewable impressions target, and this could, of course, impact your ad serving costs.


There is the fact that currently there are some formats and platforms that are hard for the viewability tech providers to track. However, as has frequently been said in the discussions around ad verification, all suppliers, especially the larger players, need to accept greater responsibility for the content they distribute, and work to enable third party verification and viewability tracking.  ISBA has been working diligently with all members of the ecosystem to achieve this.


Although it is rarely mentioned when roadmaps relating to digital supply chain issues are being discussed in the industry, I believe enabling viewability trading is an essential supplementary element. I believe that moving to this model is crucial if we are to ensure that confidence and trust are maximised, so that digital can be traded in a similar way to other media.


Ad verification is, after all, quite simply about ensuring that as a brand you get what you pay for. We should work to enable all brands to have trading models that synergise with the tracking of viewability.


We would greatly appreciate your feedback on how we could further develop the guidelines.

Trading on Viewability Guidelines

Download our free Trading on Viewability Guidelines developed in partnership with ISBA and Goodstuff. We welcome all comments, feedback as well as any questions via the Contact Us form on the site.


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Alex Tait is the founder of Entropy, the media, content and digital consultancy, and co-founder of its sister consultancy Entropy Data which specialises in providing GDPR compliance and data good practice for brands. Alex was formerly Unilever’s UK and Ireland Media and Marketing Services Director.


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