- WPP's ad-buying unit GroupM has revised its digital ad viewability standards, the company announced in a press release. The biggest changes include a new time requirement that ads be viewable for at least one second to account for users quickly scrolling past ads in news feeds and allowing for autoplay sounds on video ads in social feeds, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Previously, only sound initiated by the users counted towards viewing measurements. Pre- and mid-roll ads that appear in video content still have to adhere to the older, more stringent standard established in 2014.
- The new standard maintains the requirement that ads must be 100% in view to be counted as a viewed ad. The group said it is studying performance of social and news feed video ad with DoubleVerify, Moat and IAS using 100 data points to better understand which elements are most meaningful on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat to use as a foundation to develop future social and news feed duration metrics.
- The GroupM press release specified that major advertisers including Unilever, Campbell Soup Company, Church & Dwight, Shell, Subway and Volvo Cars support the new standards.
Amidst a sea of confusion over digital advertising metrics that is partially to blame for some advertisers scaling back their digital budgets this year, the fact that GroupM's press release touts the support of major brands, including Unilever, signals the industry that some big spenders are behind its definition of viewability.
Digital ad viewability has long been a contentious issue, in part because there are conflicting standards. The Media Rating Council (MRC) offers standards that are generally widely accepted by the industry but there are also custom standards such as GroupM’s that typically are more exacting than MRC’s. Individual standards from social media platforms tend to be more lenient than other guidelines.
The confusion caused by conflicting standards and the challenge this presents marketers in accurately measuring the effectiveness of their efforts across channels came to the forefront this year with global ad spend leaders P&G and Unilever both decrying the state of affairs, demanding more transparency and announcing in June they were scaling back their digital ad spending. In this light, GroupM's announcement is a positive step in that it moves the conversation forward about what standards work best.
The biggest beneficiary of GroupM's new relaxed standard for news feed video is likely to be social media platforms that typically serve ads with the sound off by default, although many, like Facebook, have moved toward sound-on, autoplay video ads. Snapchat is one platform that has unapologetically run its video ads with sound on autoplay.
The biggest losers are likely to be consumers if autoplay video becomes more widely used as a result of GroupM's announcement. Intrusive experiences like autoplay video are annoying for consumers, which is why Apple's recently introduced in beta a new feature for its Safari browser that automatically blocks autoplay videos, letting users decide if they want to turn them on. More annoying ad experiences will do little to bring about the better quality ad experiences that are needed if ad blocking usage rates are to be slowed down.