Google’s Active View viewability measurement solution has been given the nod from the Media Rating Council.
Active View, introduced in 2012, lets advertisers reserve inventory on the Google Display Network and pay only for those that meet the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s proposed viewability standard of at least 50 percent of an ad being visible onscreen for one second or longer. Active View also will be available in DoubleClick for Advertisers and DoubleClick for Publishers in 2013.
Google also shared some data showing that increased viewability improves campaign performance in a blog post, Neal Mohan, Google's vice president of display advertising.
It found that users were up to 21 times more likely to click on a viewable ad, with clickthrough rates (CTRs) doubling, on average, for below-the-fold inventory. In fact, Google found that CTRs for viewable above-the-fold and viewable below-the-fold inventory were comparable. When an ad was viewed for more than 20 seconds – 20 times the IAB proposed standard – Google saw up to a 125 percent increase in clicks.
This poses the question of whether the IAB viewability standard is enough. Mohan says, "The IAB standard is about the most fundamental point: Is the ad there long enough for it to be counted as something? As the ad is on the screen for longer, it catches the users' eye, and rates go up."
ComScore has been pushing its own validated Campaign Essentials tech that measures viewability along with other quality metrics. In August 2012 it announced VivaKi will use the offering for ads placed through the VivaKi Nerve Center's Audience on Demand.
On the blog, Mohan said this and its other efforts to improve the performance of digital ads are paying off, based on a 65 percent increase in the number of brand advertisers using its formats and tools.
"Without doubt, Google is the dominant player in display simply because they own so much infrastructure across the key capabilities to enable display," said Dave Zinman, chief executive of Infolinks. "With DoubleClick and the Ad Exchange, they are in a great position to take viewability to the next level."
But Zinman argues that viewability is a bit of a distraction from the real problem with display ads: their lousy performance. Zinman, former general manager for display advertising at Yahoo and cofounder of AdKnowledge in 1995, says he has seen CTRs steadily decline – so these large increases in CTRs thanks to viewability don't mean that much.
"When we started out in 1996, the average CTR was 2 percent," he said. "It was .5 in 1999, and it is now at .08. So if we go from .08 to .02, we're still not doing much more than rearranging deck chairs."
Mohan thinks the industry will shift over the next year to emphasize viewability, and says Google's publishers have been excited about Active View.
"It's up to every publisher to make the decision in how they make that transition in a way that makes most sense for them," he added.
Right now, the lack of clarity in viewability benefits advertisers but causes publishers to leave money on the table, according to Will Luttrell, chief technology officer of Integral Ad Science. His company is also in the process of accreditation with the Media Rating Council for a tool that provides viewability data in real-time bidding ad exchanges.
"There is value in having, for example, ads at the bottom of a page," Luttrell said. "Buying that ad spot should be worth less money. Right now they are undifferentiated."
For example, one customer doubled the percentage of viewable ads bought in the exchange from 35 percent to 70 percent using its Ad Viewability solution -- but it only cost them 10 percent more.
"That's how little viewability is being accounted for in the current marketplace," Luttrell said.
According to Google's Mohan, "By changing the conversation to one about actual viewed impressions, the goal is to give brands comfort that their ads are actually being viewed by human beings. They're willing to spend more money online, and that grows the pie for everybody."