Trading on Viewability Guidelines

In partnership with the UK advertiser trade body ISBA 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. We also think it is an essential part of the future of brand advertising.

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About the author: Alex Tait is the founder of Entropy – the media, content and digital consultancy. Alex was formerly Unilever’s UK and Ireland Media and Marketing Services Director where his team were one of the first to introduce this model to the UK market.

We’ve put together these guidelines to help advertisers trade on viewability. We initially developed them late in 2017 with the independent media agency Goodstuff and ISBA to act as a catalyst encouraging advertisers to take this trading strategy forward. We’ve updated them since.


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.


Subsequent to the guidelines being developed The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) launched in 2018  their Global Media Charter which we fully support. Point 3 of the charter asserts that brands should be “able to trade against the viewability levels that are appropriate for their business”. This in our view finally signals the coming of age of viewabiity trading.


Contact us and we’ll discuss with you how we can help your brand migrate to this model.


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 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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