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Mobile Messes Up Viewability Measurement

Differing treatments of mobile viewable impressions the leading cause for differences in viewability

July 14, 2015

Mobile is a big problem when it comes to viewability measurement. That’s one finding from the Media Rating Council’s (MRC’s) third iteration of desktop viewable-impression reconciliation testing. The study compared the total viewable impressions for campaigns (including both display and video) tagged for viewability measurement by two or more viewability vendors across a large dataset provided by a range of publishers, advertisers and agencies to determine differences in vendor results and how to minimize such discrepancies.

Share of Methodological Differences Between US Viewability Vendors* that Lead to Different Ad Viewability Results, based on ads served during Q1-Q2 2015 (% of total ads analyzed by viewability vendors)

Among the total ads whose viewability was measured by US viewability vendors on behalf of advertisers and for which there was a difference in the way that viewability was measured, 54% of those differences were attributable to differing treatments of mobile viewable impressions in vendors’ reporting. No other response came close; issues with vendors treating multiads differently for measurement and reporting purposes ranked second, at 28%.

The MRC’s viewable impressions guidelines are currently written with desktop in mind, not mobile, on which user behavior is different, and the company noted that mobile must be broken out separately as a result. In addition, the report suggested that vendors had to go even further and break out mobile web and in-app impressions as well as understand and disclose the extent to which they can determine operating system and browser.

Other research suggests there are issues with viewability definition as a whole, and April 2015 polling by Undertone found huge discrepancies in industry professionals’ awareness of the Interactive Advertising Bureau guidelines on campaign viewability thresholds depending on their role. While 80% of US publishers were familiar with these, the response rate dropped to 69% for agencies and just 48% for marketers.

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