Viewability Trading Guidelines

We’ve put together these guidelines to help advertisers trade on viewability. We initially developed them several years ago with the UK advertiser trade body ISBA to act as a catalyst encouraging advertisers to take this trading strategy forward. It has been designed to be market neutral and is applicable across most international markets.

Alex Tait is the founder of Entropy. Before launching the company, he was the Media and Marketing Services Director at Unilever where his team were one of the first to implement this model.

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

Contact us and we’ll discuss with you how we can help your brand migrate to this model. We can also provide advice on how publishers can maximise their viewability rate. Something many of the larger agencies are increasingly asking publishers to deliver against.

There are already several precedents on viewability in the market. 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 been driving forward their global viewability standards for Display and Video across both social and publisher websites.

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 form 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.

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