Media Ratings Council says viewability measurement is good to go

The Media Ratings Council, a non-profit organization that audits and accredits media measurement technology, believes that viewability measurement has reached a level of reliability where marketers and trading desks can use it as a currency for purchasing media. At the end of this month, the MRC will lift a standing advisory warning digital media stakeholders […]

Jeff Fraser March 20, 2014

The Media Ratings Council, a non-profit organization that audits and accredits media measurement technology, believes that viewability measurement has reached a level of reliability where marketers and trading desks can use it as a currency for purchasing media.

At the end of this month, the MRC will lift a standing advisory warning digital media stakeholders that viewability measurement is “not a recommended solution,” and put its full support behind the technology.

MRC executive director George Ivie discussed the change this morning at the IAB Canada Spring Mixx conference in Toronto. He said in 2012 when the MRC was asked by the IAB to review viewability technology, the technology was not ready for buyers and sellers to trade on, so the MRC issued an advisory to slow down its adoption.

“That advisory hasn’t been fully adhered to, but most of the large agencies have not really been trading on viewable impressions. They’ve been waiting for us to lift that advisory,” Ivie said.

With the MRC approving viewability measurement for widespread use, it will likely become a dominant performance metric in the digital marketplace. Trading on the viewable impression means “that people more closely get what they paid for,” said Ivie. “That’s a powerful upside that is not going back in the station – the train is out.”

The MRC’s new standards for viewable impression measurement will be released for comment this week. It defines a viewable display impression as being at least 50% on-screen for 1 second (a standard set by the IAB), and a viewable video impression as being at least 50% on-screen for 2 seconds (a standard previously under dispute).

To earn MRC accreditation, viewability measurement providers must:
• measure on-screen time by checking with a certain frequency whether the ad is on-screen (100 ms for display)
• measure whether the impression is 50% on-screen before they begin measuring whether it is on-screen for 1 second
• only count impressions on an in-focus tab
• eliminate non-rendered impressions from viewability counts.

The MRC has already accredited over a dozen vendors for viewability, including Google ActiveView, DoubleVerify, comScore vCE, Moat, Spider.io (recently acquired by Google) and Sizmek (formerly MediaMind). Ivie said more are being audited.

One significant hole in viewability measurement was the frequent use of the iframes format, which blocks measurement of the context around an ad and prevents measurement from determining the ad’s position on screen. This led to a high number of “unmeasurable” impressions. However, newer methods supplement geometric positioning with browser attributes like refresh rate and tab focus. When an ad is on-screen, its refresh rate increases, which can be detected whether or not an iframe is used.

“What we’ve seen emerging over the last few months is a combination of methods that can greatly reduce the unmeasurable rate,” said Ivie. “In fact there are some vendors today that have almost no unmeasurable impressions, because they’re using this combination method.”