Viewable Impressions Erin Holzbauer

What is a Viewable Impression? Setting a Standard for Advertisers and Media Partners

May 16, 2014by Erin Holzbauer

The online advertising industry is abuzz with the topic of viewability and fraud, thanks in part to a recent New York Times article, appearing to uncover the truth that a sizable number of “impressions”—what most marketers believe is the magic representative number of eyes on your ad—go largely unseen. Despite the uptick in conversation surrounding the issue, it isn’t (or shouldn’t be) new to digital marketers.

Setting the industry standard

The challenge has been getting the industry to agree on what constitutes a truly “viewable impression.” We’ve known for some time that a number of impressions are not actually seen, due to bot (nonhuman) traffic or because an ad appears out of view and a user is never exposed to it. This spring, the industry took a big step forward when the IAB and MRC announced an industry-wide standard for viewable display banners:

50 percent or more of the pixels in an ad are on an in-focus browser on the viewable space of the browser page for one continuous second or longer.

With that standard established, advertisers and media partners are beginning to negotiate based on viewable display impressions.

It’s important to note that the video ad industry is still a step behind in the process—the standard for defining a viewable video impression was determined in January, but the MRC has recommended a review period of that standard through the end of June. If they lift that review period as expected, the door will open to buying and negotiating based on viewable video impressions as well.

What does this mean for advertisers?

It is time to have the viewable impression guarantee conversation with your media partners. The standard for identifying viewable impressions is in place and the MRC has accredited 12 technology partners for auditing whether impressions are viewable or fraudulent.

Advertisers can now work directly with those technology partners to filter out nonviewable and fraudulent impressions on their buys. Some media partners are being proactive and incorporating the technology directly into their platforms and offering viewability as a standard part of any buy. In the long term, these new standards will minimize the risk of fraud and create a better environment for both advertisers and media partners.

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