Advertisers Balk at New Viewability Standards

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released new guidelines regarding visibility rates in online marketing campaigns. The guidelines mandate a 70% viewability threshold, meaning that 70% of the ads in any given campaign must be viewable. To be considered viewable, at least half of a display ad must be visible on the computer screen for one second. For video ads, half of the ad must be visible for two seconds.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau said in a letter that it is still impossible to accurately measure 100% viewability. Because of the wide variety of ad types, vendors, and evaluation units that make 100% viewability measurements impossible, the Interactive Advertising Bureau recommends an industry standard of 70% viewability. If 70% viewability is not reached during a campaign, additional ads should be given to the advertisers at no cost.

“I think the uncertainty illustrates the need for a versatile online marketing strategy that includes content marketing and positions your company as an authority,” says Brad Gerlach, owner of the internet marketing agency Local Mixed.

Advertisers are understandably unhappy with the new guidelines, as they do not want to pay for ads that are not being seen by customers. The American Association of Advertising Agencies is among those who oppose the guidelines. In a letter to its members, the association stated that it “will not endorse” the new guidelines.

Many ad buyers are demanding 100% viewability for their campaigns, claiming that if they purchase a certain number of impressions, it is the publisher’s job to keep running the ad until the correct number of impressions have been made.
“Running a campaign and paying for 30% of the ads not being viewable isn’t acceptable to us or our clients,” Todd Gordon, executive vice president of ad buying firm Magna Global told the Wall Street Journal.

Not everyone is upset with the new standards. Kevin Scholl, digital marketing director at Red Roof Inn, is pleasantly surprised.

“Honestly, it’s better than what we’re seeing and what I expected [the IAB] to come in with,” he told AdWeek.com. Scholl further noted that in late 2014 his brand continued on the same investment curve as earlier in the year, but paid more attention to data that could help boost the effectiveness of ads that were seen. “We bought more ads based on weather reports and airport closings,” he said.

While the viewability debate is sure to continue well into 2015, at least ad buyers and publishers are technically on the same side. Both parties want to see more visibility for online ads; they just have different ideas on how to get it.

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