• Out of home impressions versus on-line impressions

    A fascinating exchange between Marcus Johnson and Nicole Perrin on an Emarketer podcast last week. (emphasis Insiders).

    Marcus Johnson: A recent digiday piece actually notes that all attention was not created equal.  Marketers are starting to further probe whether current viewability standards are a true measure of audience attention.  The media rating council says that for an online ad to be treated as viewed just half the ad has to be seen for one second.

    Nicole Perrin: We could even downgrade it from there.  It’s not just for the ad to be viewed.  It’s for the ad to be viewable.  And it could have been viewed for one second on the screen.

    Johnson:  What are your thoughts about having a 5-10 second viewing standard?

    Perrin: There are certainly reasons to think that advertisers would like that.  I think it would probably make a lot of folks on the sell side a little bit nervous because they’d really have to ask themselves how much of my audience is paying that much attention to digital ads…

    Insider asked Geopath’s Dylan Mabin to discuss viewability and impressions and here’s what he said.

    Dylan Mabin, SVP, Geopath

    There is nuance to the conversation around viewable, viewability, and viewed. Depending on the content and delivery mechanism, the benchmarks for each are subject to the standards of the industry and priorities of a client’s campaign.

    “Viewable” is probably the most straight forward of the three terms, answering the question “Can the content be seen?” If the media is too far away from the audience or the view of the media obstructed in some way, then it is not viewable. The area where a piece of inventory can be viewed is called the visual contact zone.

    “Viewability” includes an additional threshold to the mix. To satisfy a viewability threshold, the content must first be viewable, but it also much be viewable for a minimum period of time. There are two current standards widely adopted for viewability. For a still image the minimum period that the content must be viewable is 1 second. For full-motion video the minimum time that the content must be viewable is 2 seconds.

    “View” is when an individual of the intended audience who is in the visual contact zone sees the media content. It cannot be assumed that just because the content was viewable that the audience sees it. They must focus their gaze upon the target for a sufficient amount of time.

    And here is where it gets fun… what is a sufficient amount of time for a viewability threshold? Or for something to be counted as viewed?

    Industry groups, such as the MRC and IAB, have published standards which define these necessary thresholds, and it cannot be overstated how necessary these defined thresholds are. Audience measurement must be transparent on what it is counting and how. In out-of-home, Geopath has been using a one (1) second threshold, going back to the introduction of digital out-of-home measurement in 2014. Current viewability standards for online digital is also one (1) second, and two (2) seconds for digital video.

    However, there are many conversations happening around digital video viewability and some people are proposing to extend the minimum viewability time. One argument for increasing the threshold for viewability standards of video is that the message of a video cannot be guaranteed to be completely understood in all 2 second windows of time throughout the play.

    Video as a medium is incredible and it can tell a very complex story in a very short period of time.  However, video content does not need to be forced to be brief solely to satisfy short attention spans and fear of data caps. Leveraging the capability of video to tell a creative story is the prerogative of the creative team and the marketers. In these cases, it may become a future discussion of the marketers to decide what they want counted as a “viewable” impression. The same future conversations may hold true for “view.” A client may want to know how many people watched the whole message start to finish as they do in some video platforms.

    On the flip side of this conversation is the publisher and operator of the media network and what’s being sold and guaranteed. Clearly defined industry-approved standards of viewability and view help the buyer and seller plan, negotiate, and transact using common terms. If the threshold of viewability and view are dependent upon the creative messaging and design, then it is unreasonable to ask the seller to guarantee or be accountable to a delivery that the seller has no input or control of the creative design or product or service being marketed.

    One solution that is available to the media industry is to have a standard for viewability and view that is applicable to the planning, buying, and selling process and a separate threshold that is used for campaign analysis. It affords the consistent foundation that is beneficial for any negotiation, but ultimate flexibility at the end of the day to allow for brands and the marketing industry to learn what works where and about how audiences consume media.


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    1. Whether an ad will ever get read in full is TOTALLY the advertiser’s responsibility. There’s no way a plant operator can overcome the advertiser’s need to have copious info in their ad. 10 pounds of content in a 5 pound bag so to speak. Design and proper editing of ad content will determine if the ad ever gets full impact, and that is often outside the outdoor plant’s control.

      This really stresses the designer’s role in the ad. The physical setting of the display merely creates the opportunity for a viewer to see the ad. Assuring the ad is legible and proper to that setting is the role of the designer working with data available for the display site. Some of the data that can be forwarded to the designer include approach time (speed and viewing distance), the visual competition (other ads, street signs or traffic conditions), and sign geometry to the traffic flow. A good designer can factor that into the art.

      For some designs I’ve used 3M VAS system to proof the eye track of the art in its visual field, otherwise Google earth gives a good representation of the physical conditions for the display. If I see a display that has 65 mph and 300 feet of viewing opportunity, I know that ad has just 3 seconds of “view”. If the ad takes 5 seconds to read or traffic is busy the ad’s lost the game.