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November 28, 2012

Thoughts on the MRC’s Viewable Impression Advisory

By: Anne Hunter

As many of you may have seen, the Media Rating Council (MRC) recently released an advisory on viewable impressions.  The purpose of this was to educate the market about the MRC’s take on the current state of viewable impression measurement based on a recent 3MS analysis of viewability measurement vendors.  3MS has stated that the vendors included in the analysis were comScore, Double Verify, Google, MOAT, and RealVu.

I’d like to provide some clarification and context on some of the key points raised in the advisory, especially as they relate to comScore’s validated Campaign Essentials.

Not all viewability measurement is the same:

  • 3MS performed diagnostics on all five participating vendors as well as conducted a real-world test with 22 ad campaigns.
  • The analysis found significant variability across vendors with respect to the ability to measure viewability. In the majority of the campaigns, the vendors could not even measure half of the impressions served!  Some campaigns couldn’t be accurately measured at all. 
  • This is particularly concerning, given that many vendors are claiming to offer complete viewability measurement – yet the 3MS analysis proved that most can detect and report on viewability of only a fraction of served impressions.
  • The takeaway: Given the findings from the analysis, the MRC recommends only working with a vendor that has received MRC accreditation for its viewable impression measurement. Earlier this year, comScore became the first vendor to be MRC accredited based on the IAB Guidelines for the Conduct for Ad Verification. The accreditation was for our vCE Ad Validation module.

You must be able to measure in cross-domain iframes:

  • Cross domain iframes provide serious challenges when it comes to measuring viewability. In our own analyses, we’ve seen that a typical campaign can have 60% or more of total impressions delivered through cross-domain iframes. As MRC and 3MS have both noted, most providers of viewability measurement cannot determine viewability for placements in cross-domain iframes.
  • The 3MS analysis is consistent with comScore findings, and provides objective and consensus third-party validation of the extent to which cross-domain iframes pose challenges for campaign measurement. While the cross-domain iframe measurement is certainly not the only issue in viewability tracking, it is the most significant one.
  • The 3MS study also found for ad nets in particular, cross-domain iframes made up 78% of the ads served.
  • The takeaway: comScore is the only vendor accredited for its measurement of a significant number of cross-domain iframes. For more information on this topic and our approach, please read a blog post from comScore CRO Josh Chasin.

Transparency and disclosure are of paramount importance:

  • The MRC has indicated to us that viewability providers should report on three specific statistics: the number of impressions that are known to be viewable; the number of impressions that are known to be not viewable; and the number of impressions for which viewability is unknown. Further, measurement companies should provide detail with respect to precise handling of, and assumptions made about, those impressions for which viewability is unknown.
  • The takeaway: comScore provides the transparency and disclosure that MRC requires with respect to viewability reporting. Users of viewability measurement should demand a similar level of accountability from their measurement provider.

A number of advertisers and agencies are currently using vCE Validation to evaluate and even bill their publisher partners based on the viewability performance of the impressions for which they have contracted. Several publishers are already selling impressions based on comScore’s viewable impressions measurement.  Even more will be doing so next year.

Choosing an accredited vendor who can measure cross-domain iframes and provide fully transparent accounting of measurability is the key to moving forward with viewable impressions.  As you prepare for the year ahead, I encourage you to keep the above context in mind.

As always, I am happy to answer any questions you may have and would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the best ways to incorporate vCE into your plans for 2013. Feel free to reach out to me at press@comscore.com or via your comScore representative.

Tags: Ad Impressions, Ad Validation, Advertising, Viewability