All attention is not equal: What constitutes a view?

As programmatic buyers move away from a singular focus on chasing cookies toward a broader playbook of monitoring fraud, viewability and engagement, there has been a shift in how performance is evaluated. It’s leading marketers to question whether the current viewability standards adequately measure true audience attention.

The current Media Ratings Council (MRC) standard for an online ad to be considered viewed is half of that ad being seen for one second. Apply that to any other medium, a TV ad for example, and the flaws in this standard of measurement become immediately clear. If a consumer sees one second of a TV commercial (nevermind only half the screen), would they even be able to recognize the brand or product?

In our survey of 300 industry professionals from publishers, agencies and brands there’s a clear appetite for change, as Jo Lyall, managing director of media agency Mindshare UK – part of GroupM, says: “Basic viewability, knowing that your ad has been seen, is a hygiene factor, and we shouldn’t even have to keep questioning that.”

However, there are a few battles to be won along the way.

Inertia makes it difficult for buyers and sellers to move beyond standard viewability

To expose a key part of the battle preventing both sides of the industry from better assessing attention, it’s important to zero in on the barriers. Buyers seem to lack opportunities to explore new ways to measure success and quality. The result is that where buyers point to a lack of resources, publishers say there is not enough demand for change.

Eighty-eight percent of publishers said a lack of industry demand for alternative metrics is the biggest barrier to moving beyond standard viewability. Just two buy-side respondents agreed. Instead, 79 percent of buyers pointed to limited resources to test and validate new metrics as the biggest barrier; just five percent of publishers agreed.

“Some companies are thinking very far ahead, but they are not in sync with people like myself at publishing houses or media buying agencies that literally operate year-to-year. I think that’s why there isn’t a heavy tactical demand for it,” says Kai Hsing, SVP of marketing and operations at Bustle.

The need for scale is driving a preference for CPM-based models

Our respondents have already begun to test attention-based metrics beyond the MRC standard, but increasingly these are CPM-based buys, suggesting the need to drive scale in an increasingly programmatic world.

Maybe this isn’t an issue after all. Conversations around attention metrics tend to imply a seismic change to buying models. But consider this: a buyer could be provided with data that an impression is likely to be in-view for 10 seconds; they could then have the choice of paying a higher CPM – the same model they’re used to – for that impression based on its quality. In the end, factoring in attention-based metrics but continuing to buy on CPM could be an attractive path.

In fact, 69 percent of buyers have tested time-based currencies in the past but only 10 percent said they intend to do so in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 81 percent say they plan to try optimizing on time-in-view but buying on a CPM.

Marketers haven’t come to terms with the cost of quality

Eighty-nine percent of buyers said that marketers have not yet accepted the true cost of quality; only 11 percent said that most marketers are ultimately willing to pay more. One buyer in the survey pointed to limited resources preventing progress on evaluating new measures of quality as a key barrier. However, publishers are complimentary of buyers’ view towards their premium inventory; 89 percent said they are willing to pay more for quality impressions, and just 10 percent said that marketers have not yet accepted their true cost.

“You cannot get quantity and quality for the same price,” says Alistair Smith, head of advertising yield management at The Financial Times. “What people need to decide is if they want 100 ads to be seen for one second or 50 ads to be seen for 15 seconds. You’re far more likely to have an impact with smaller amounts of impressions for long periods of time than you will do with just snippets of messages that come through.”

A detailed summary of the research and further insight is available here.

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