Video Viewability Standards Have a Long Way to Go - eMarketer

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Video Viewability Standards Have a Long Way to Go

Despite progress, more needs to be done to ensure end-users are actually seeing video ads

April 24, 2015

US digital video ad spending is poised to increase by 33.8% this year and maintain double-digit growth through at least 2019, eMarketer estimates. In dollar terms, spending will nearly double from $7.77 billion in 2015 to $14.38 billion by 2019. This comforting forecast masks structural problems in the digital video advertising industry, the most pressing of which is a disagreement between buyers and sellers over current standards for ad viewability and other benchmarks, according to a new eMarketer report, “Video Advertising Benchmarks: What Metrics Can (and Can’t) Tell You About the Big Picture.”

US Digital Media Buyers* vs. Suppliers** Who Think the Media Rating Council (MRC) Standard for Display Viewability Is Strict Enough, Nov 2014 (% of respondents)

Nowhere is the ad industry’s lack of cohesiveness more evident than in the case of viewability—that is, determining whether an ad is within the user’s view when it’s playing.

As more and more ads are served programmatically, industry leaders are concerned that too many ads aren’t being seen, and disagreement over this seemingly straightforward metric may point to larger issues brewing between buyers and sellers.

In November 2014, advertising analytics firm Integral Ad Science polled US digital media buyers and sellers on their impressions of the Media Rating Council’s (MRC’s) viewability standards (released in June 2014 in response to widespread calls for industry standards on viewability). Not surprisingly, the survey found that a clear majority of buyers didn’t think the standards were adequate, while suppliers were generally OK with them.

Although the survey was about display standards as a whole and didn’t specifically address video, industry leaders in the video ad space have agreed with the findings.

“Every publisher is like, ‘Oh, that’s absolutely fine,’ and every buyer is like, ‘No, it’s not,’” said Ari Brandt, CEO and co-founder of digital ad platform MediaBrix. “I don’t think that chart is going to change any time soon. I’m surprised it’s not 100% for the suppliers who say that they’re fine with the standards.”

US Viewability Rate for Online Pre-Roll Video Ads, Q1-Q4 2014 (% of total ads served by TubeMogul)

In Q4 2014, worldwide viewability rates for 15- and 30-second video ads hovered around 51% based on a 2-second in-view rate, according to Moat. That means that roughly 50% of video ads were viewable, according to the MRC’s 2-second benchmark.

Viewability rates increased substantially with ads purchased through programmatic direct channels in the US compared with overall pre-roll video, according to a study from TubeMogul. This is because such inventory is typically targeted at viewers who are predisposed to like specific types of content, such as fantasy sports or skateboarding.

Viewability Rate for Interactive Online Pre-Roll Video Ads Worldwide, by Player Size and Publisher Type, 2014 (among impressions served by Innovid)

Another viewability study, by ad technology firm Innovid, found that interactive pre-rolls on broadcast sites had the highest viewability, at 77% worldwide, compared with 49% at portals such as AOL and Yahoo, and 38% at platforms and aggregators.

The viewability rates in the Moat, TubeMogul and Innovid studies—all of which used the MRC standards as the basis for establishing viewability—validate marketers’ concerns about paying for ads that aren’t seen.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Video Advertising Benchmarks: What Metrics Can (and Can’t) Tell You About the Big Picture.”

This report answers these key questions:

  • What digital video advertising benchmarks are most important to buyers and sellers?
  • What steps is the advertising industry taking toward standardizing key performance benchmarks, such as viewability?
  • Do viewability and clickthrough rates correlate with fraud?

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