The MRC’s Decision and the Future of Display Advertising
After 18 months, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) lifted its advisory on viewable impressions for display advertising, essentially green-lighting the industry to officially transact on this new metric. Despite the initial warning, the announcement raises questions and concerns technology providers have to be prepared to answer.
At a high level, while it makes sense for advertisers to monitor their campaigns for viewability and even hold their network partners accountable for those rates, the jury's still out on whether we should be transacting on the metric.
Ready or not, the MRC got all wheels in motion.
This presents an interesting opportunity for publishers and ad networks that have been working tirelessly for the past 18 months to improve their viewability rates. The good publishers/ad networks have been proactively building proprietary (or leveraging existing) viewability technology and taking action on their findings. Theoretically, publishers could also stand to benefit with their now premium inventory that advertisers will vie after. Conversely, if this announcement leads to substantially more viewability-based campaigns, which is a likely outcome, the inventory pool is about to shrink.
This is a classic supply-and-demand scenario. Advertisers/agencies will need to prepare to pay a premium for the soon-to-be limited inventory pool. They also need to be aware that viewability pricing could end as a total wash. For instance, a publisher/network that yields a 50 percent viewability rate will need to charge twice the CPM to maintain revenue. If advertisers aren't careful, we could be unnecessarily muddying the media buying waters.
As for publishers, sites with poor viewability will lose out. They'll need to focus on creating engaging content, better placed ads and fewer, but bigger, ad units enabled with rich media if they hope to maintain revenue.
For everyone else, the ability to measure for viewability is still very limited. For viewability to be a successful metric, we need to keep evolving our expectations on what "success" looks like, which will prove challenging as the technology evolves. As it stands, even some MRC-accredited viewability vendors are still only able to measure a portion of ads delivered (in some cases as low at 35 percent measurability).
However, the MRC successfully sparked a fire that will cause technology providers, publishers and other vendors alike to up their game. During this adjustment period, it's smart to practice caution. I encourage agencies and advertisers to monitor — not solely transact — on viewability, at least until the industry catches up.
Craig Simmons is the manager of product strategy and operations at Exponential Interactive, a global provider of advertising intelligence and digital media solutions to brand advertisers.