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The viewability issue: What marketers are really measuring

In the second part of a two-part feature on the issues surrounding viewability, Marketing dives into how brands should also look at viewability as a bigger part of the story, rather than using it as a main or sole metric for campaigns.

Manisha Seewal, head of marketing at Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore, said that other potentially useful viewability metrics include eye-tracking heat maps, along with mouse-over tracking on desktops. She added that marketers should first consider the objectives of their campaign and the role of each piece of content, which in turn, will inform the choice of metrics.

The chosen metric should help to provide marketers with insights on how they can improve their future campaigns and content to better drive their businesses and marketing objectives. For example, if the purpose of the banner is to drive action, an appropriate measurement would be click-through rates, followed up with user-journey tracking and session duration.

At the end of the day, a campaign should be evaluated against the objectives it sets out to achieve, instead of comparing purely against competitors or in absolute numbers.

She added that certain questions to consider include: “Are products or sales moving?”, “Do people remember the intended key message?” and “Has the brand changed perceptions or sentiments around the brand or product?”

Other metrics to consider can also include return on ad spend for e-commerce campaigns and customer lifetime value for acquisition campaigns. “That said, there are some existing benchmarks which are typically driven by regulatory bodies such as the MRC, subject matter experts such as Google and neutral third party research bodies. These may be useful as neutral measures of outcomes,” she added.

Echoing her sentiments, Mark Halliday, managing director of performance media for Asia Pacific at Omnicom Media Group, is of the view that viewability is one of several important metrics, but it has to be considered as part of a wider story. “If a client was to blindly chase viewability, it might be against the wrong target audience, or it might have a detrimental impact on the cost of media and their subsequent CPA goals,” he said. “We therefore work with clients to help find the ideal balance between inputs, such as media partners, brand uplift, costs, data, on-target reach, viewability, brand safety, fraud and  frequency.”

But in his line of work, he has, of course, worked with clients who have seen the correlation between higher viewability to brand or sales impact, and as such, place more focus on viewability. “Effective measurement of campaigns is critical for advertisers today,” he said. “Digital media is the most  measurable of all channels, but we spend a lot of time working with clients to ensure that we are reporting and optimising to the right metrics – those that drive business growth and not vanity measures such as volume of clicks or engagement rates.”

In addition to viewability, audibility should also be a metric that marketers consider when setting KPIs for their campaigns, Stephanie Davis,country director for Google Singapore, said. According to a study by Google TrueView, which analysed data between August and September 2016, ad recall for audible and viewable ads are 2.7 times higher than audible only ads, and 1.4 times higher than viewable only ads.

“With a wide variety of standard video ad serving, viewability, audibility and visibility metrics available, you can get closer to understanding which of your video ads are holding your viewers’ attention and which need improvement,” she said.

Measuring against the market

With so few viewability metrics available, one might wonder if marketers and media agencies find it challenging to effectively determine the success of their campaigns compared with other competitors.

The first step to creating a unified measurement metric is to have a unified way on the counting methodology of a viewable impression, says Olivier Le Sayec, head of supply at Blis. A standardised way of placing the tracking pixel onto the web page or app is required. Tracking pixels, also known as tags or beacons, are embedded in campaign assets such as ads, websites and emails, allowing companies to track the activity of consumers. In this case, companies can use the tracking pixel to monitor the viewability percentage of the ad.

“From experience, I have seen dramatic differences in viewability percentage from different vendors on the exact same publisher because one of the pixels was placed on the bottom of the page,” he said. He added the biggest challenge is the lack of knowledge or understanding among clients on how to effectively measure viewability. This is made more challenging by increasing technological complexity, which prevents clients from getting an accurate indication of their ROI.

Despite the challenges behind the lack of a unified viewability measurement metric, Niall Hogan, managing director for Southeast Asia at IAS, said: “It does not matter if each advertiser has a different viewability standard because the purpose of the data is not to compare themselves to competitors.”

Instead, he said companies are using it to compare their campaign performance against themselves in order to improve. “It’s more about focusing on your own campaign and your own information and trying to make improvements and efficiencies in your own campaign,” he said. He noted there was slight progress on the mobile front in terms of having a unifi ed measurement.

Last year, IAB Technology Laboratory (IAB Tech Lab) launched the Open Measurement Software Development Kit (OM SDK), supporting independent third-party measurement from multiple sources with a single SDK integration. The open measurement SDK also standardises the measurement of viewability and is able to offer more transparency to buyers through consistent and accurate measurement.

This new initiative will offer participating measurement vendors access to the data required to support their verification and analytics needs. “I think about 80% to 90% of Asian publishers will have this SDK by the end of 2018, which means that advertisers and agencies will be able to work with their adtech vendor of choice, and still obtain the same mobile app viewability measurement from each of them,” Hogan said.

He described this as “a real step forward” for the industry as it is the first time industry players have been able to collaborate and get a consensus on how mobile viewability measurement should work. Janet Leung, director of product at Publicis Media Asia Pacific, said the media agency constantly aims for higher standards than MRC or IAB viewability requirements. Its global standard for viewability is 100% of pixels fully in view for one second in display and two consecutive seconds in video.

“In APAC, pending client KPIs, we will always optimise towards higher viewability rates. With the dominance of mobile inventory in APAC and limitations with viewability measurement, it is equally important to work closely with clients and inventory providers to ensure we also achieve reach and performance for clients,” she said.

Specifically for mobile, she said Publicis Media Asia Pacific follows the head company’s global standard with additional consideration for mobile in-app and video viewability. However, mobile in-app (both display and video) viewability measurement is limited with the existing technology from third party providers.

She added the standard JavaScript used for viewability measurement does not apply on mobile in-app inventory. While Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions tags could provide some level of viewability measurements, it is not consistent.

Of course, at the end of the day, players in the space recommend an audit process on viewability, along with brand safety and verification to ensure transparency throughout the campaign process.

The article was first published in the March print edition of Marketing magazine.