Three Views on Mobile Viewability


Ryan Griffin, SVP of Strategic Accounts at Opera Mediaworks, Maor Sadra, Managing Director and CRO, AppLift, and Ted Dhanik, cofounder and CEO, engage:BDR take a 360° look at the issue of viewability.

Q: We’ve heard so much about viewability. What does it mean and why is it such a hot topic right now?

A– Ryan Griffin, SVP of Strategic Accounts, Opera MediaWorks: Viewability refers to the means of measuring an ad’s ability to actually be seen by a user.

The first wave of online advertising used the click — think CPC or CTR — as the primary metric for success. Today, the mobile content boom and the development of immersive new ad units have both led to a shift away from clicks as the main campaign performance metric. Engagement stats — like average time spent with an ad, or completed video views — have taken center stage, and those types of metrics are only valid if the user can actually see the ad.

That’s one reason why viewability is capturing so much mindshare. The other stems from concerns about traffic quality and ad fraud.

Advertisers want to be sure they’re paying for interactions with and attention from real people, and with the growth in programmatic ad buys tracking traffic quality has become a bit more complicated. That, combined with a few high-profile exposes of fraudulent traffic driven by non-viewable ads, has made viewability one of the hot-button topics for both marketers and publishers.

Q: Is viewability an issue only reserved for mobile browsers, or is this an issue happening on mobile applications as well?

A–Maor Sadra, Managing Director, CRO, AppLift: Viewability is a more common issue in mobile browser surfing than apps. However, there are apps that present ads within their news feed even though there is no common standard defining when the ad should be counted as an impression. Moreover, there are publishers attempting to create impression fraud by layering multiple ads on top of one another and/or packaging un-viewable impressions on premium placements by posting back impression tracking pixels. For instance, this was what happened with AppNexus and PlyMedia, where AppNexus analyzed substantial data proving that PlyMedia was conducting fraudulent activity by billing impressions as viewed impressions.

Q: Why is a standard for mobile viewability needed?

A: –Ted Dhanik, cofounder and CEO, engage:BDR: As it stands, there is no standard, so it is hard for different parties along the chain to transact easily on this metric, which has seen so much success in the desktop space. Standards like these establish an agreed-upon basis that everyone can use and make it easier to transact on quality.

Q: Should the standard address differences between in-app and mobile web inventory?

Dhanik: Yes, I think so, as well as the differences between devices (android, iphone, and various tablets all have nuances that ought to be considered- mobile is a wide space that is less homogenous than desktop).

Q: Do you think longer time thresholds FOR GAUGING VIEWABILITY are needed?

Dhanik: I think the 1- and 2-second thresholds for establishing a viewable impression, and the opportunity to see, are sufficient. That said, I’d love to see sellers of inventory offer higher thresholds for heightened engagement and quality of placement. That, though, comes later.

Q: Viewability standards have been established for the desktop. What’s keeping the industry from doing the same with mobile?

Griffin: Standards and measurement tools didn’t occur overnight on desktop. And those standards and tools don’t simply translate to mobile without a period of adjustment.

Tracking viewability on mobile is different than it is on the desktop, because of the various types of devices, browsers and mobile operating systems that make up the mobile ad ecosystem.

We have to go through the same steps we went through on desktop to get to a place where we can agree on what viewability means and how it is measured — a place which is fair to everyone in the ecosystem.

The same industry trade groups that developed the desktop Display and Video standards are working together to establish mobile viewability metrics, but it’s a process that requires input and expertise from the companies that actually build, traffic and track mobile ad products.

Q: What do you believe should be the standard for viewability, especially around native advertising?

Sadra: I personally believe that the standard for viewability should be that at least 50% of an ad is displayed for at least 1 second. When it comes to native & in-feed ads in particular, this is important to ensure viewability. As for video ads, impression count should only begin after ad play.

Q: What is a “loaded ad”? Is there value in that?

Dhanik: A loaded ad is a concept from the MRC’s Interim Guidance on mobile viewability, and it refers to an ad where the pixels in view are greater than zero, but time on screen is less than one second (display ad) or two seconds (video ad), or pixels are less than 50% (or both). Essentially, it is the measurement for an ad that has seen a small amount of screen time, but through time or space requirements, hasn’t met the minimum threshold for viewability. There is value in this as a metric- it’s another layer of insight into consumer interaction that can be valuable to both advertisers and publishers. However, it’s not a metric I would transact on.

Q: How do you think the industry-wide adoption of an eventual standard will affect the mobile industry?

Dhanik: I think it will benefit the industry. Advertisers who are hesitant to explore the mobile space might be more comfortable with a viewability standard included in transactions, and drive more budget to that space. Also, it will cause the same emphasis on quality it has caused in the desktop space. Actions like this, combined with moves like Google’s promotion of mobile optimized sites in its search algorithm, will help the mobile space really shine as a medium worthy of all the eyeballs on it.

Q: What about apps vs. the mobile web? Are viewability measures the same? How are they different?

Griffin: The current methods for tracking viewability in mobile apps vs. the mobile web are very different, and neither of them are infallible. This is partly why the industry hasn’t yet come to a consensus.

For the mobile web, most third-party viewability solutions use a geometric method — measuring the position of an ad relative to specific elements within the mobile browser — to determine whether and how much of the ad is viewable.

On the other hand, most mobile apps don’t serve ads within frameworks that have standard browser features, so the geometric method won’t work. Instead, there’s a protocol called MRAID listening, that essentially tries to track all in-app mobile ads based on a standardized set of behaviors.

MRAID (or Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions) makes it so that developers and mobile ad providers don’t have to adopt a new set of commands and creative for every mobile app. With MRAID listening, the goal is to record a specific behavior — and in the case of viewability, that’s the ad being “in view.”

With both geometric tracking and MRAID listening, there are ad units and environments that can nullify the ability to get accurate viewability metrics. And neither method is applicable to mobile video — one of the fastest-growing mobile ad formats today.

Q: Are brands and agencies really interested in buying impressions based on viewability, or is that just hype?

Griffin: It’s certainly not just hype. There is growing interest amongst agencies and brands in transactable viewability solutions for mobile, despite the lack of industry standards or accredited measurement providers the space.

Accordingly, some mobile media owners are taking steps to bring “bridge solutions” to market, as we await formal industry development and adoption of these standards. Once they are developed and agreed upon by the MRC (Media Rating Council) and partners — including the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), AAAAs (American Association of Advertising Agencies), and ANA (Association of National Advertisers) — we’ll be more readily equipped to craft the types of mobile solutions that brands and agencies have become accustomed to transacting against with desktop ads.

Q: Do app developers and publishers need to do anything specific to stay on the right side of the viewability issue?

Griffin: While most marketers understand that it will take some time to get viewability solutions standardized and scaled across the entire ad ecosystem, the ad partners that move quickly to offer some sort of viewable inventory or guarantee will have a distinct advantage.

For app developers and publishers, there are two primary next steps. For those with direct sales teams, the first step is to work with a third-party ad verification or viewability provider — examples include companies like comScore, Integral Ad Science and Moat — that can validate their inventory. This is especially important as their sales teams will be facing questions about viewability on their owned and operated inventory.

Second is to ensure that third-party monetization partners like ad networks and SSPs are certified for the latest standards of viewability, and can support viewability-based transactions. This is critical when capturing indirect demand from third parties as a primary revenue source, or as a supplement to direct sales efforts.

Lastly, publishers and app developers should think carefully about the user experience when it comes to where and how they integrate mobile ads in general. Those that integrate ads into their content in a way that optimizes for viewability, without sacrificing user experience, are going to find favor both with advertisers and users.

As Opera Mediawork’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Accounts, Ryan Griffin leads a team that focuses on strategic imperatives like programmatic buying, advanced targeting, and post-campaign narratives, as well as partner compatibility with emerging product opportunities such as geo-location, native advertising and beacons. Before joining Opera Mediaworks, Ryan has worked in various capacities at Digitas, Starcom Mediavest Group, Mindshare and MPG Media Contacts. His career client list includes a number of blue-chip global brands, including Mars, Wrigley, American Express, Coca-Cola, IBM, Cisco and ING.

Maor Sadra, Managing Director and CRO at AppLift has been in the Adtech space for over 10 years prior to joining our team. His experience has been with Display, Video, Mobile media across Programmatic and Traditional media, both from the Demand & Supply sides. Maor acted as Managing Director International at INNERACTIVE, leading both the demand partnerships as well as supply sales and operations department opening satellite offices in NY and London. He also managed strategic sales roles at Matomy Media Group, working closely with large gaming publishers from across the globe. Maor dreams of Conversions, Speaks 3 Languages (English, Hebrew and Excel) and is bringing both operational and strategic experience to AppLift.

Ted Dhanik, cofounder and CEO, engage:BDR,oversees strategic marketing, sales and business development, client relationship management, and content acquisition. From 2003 – 2008, Ted was with developing strategic marketing initiatives. Working very closely with founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, Ted was responsible for launching the brand in its infancy through a very specific combination of on- and offline campaigns. Also, Mr. Dhanik innovated business development at in its early stages through acquisition by Experian, and was also an integral part of the early development and launch of the consumer lending program at NexTag Corporation.



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