Would you ever want to receive only a percentage of something you paid for? Of course not. This is precisely why the concept of “video viewability” has been of great interest to brand advertisers, publishers, and agencies, over the course of the past several years.

With the rise of digital video advertising, followed shortly thereafter by the rise of the “bad actors” of the digital ecosystem – ad fraudsters, bots, suspicious traffic, and malware – viewability has become an important metric when analyzing inventory, as well as when analyzing campaign performance.

Video viewability, in the simplest sense, is the percentage of video ads that are actually seen by human beings. Seems like an easy ask, right? Not so fast. The industry has been struggling to agree on what constitutes the reasonable definition of an actual view, ever since the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) thrown down the gauntlet in December 2014, issuing a recommendation that campaigns should be held to “a 70 percent viewability threshold through 2015 as the industry transitions to buying and selling ads on a viewable impression basis in 2015.”

Alas, the confusion only begins there. Defining a video “view” varies widely depending on the platform or the organization:

·      The Media Ratings Council, or MRC, defines a view as two consecutive seconds, at least 50% viewable

·      Snapchat counts a view when it appears on the screen, for no minimum time period, but must be 100% viewable

·      Facebook/Instagram defines a view as appearing for three seconds and must be at least 50% viewable

·      YouTube pins a true view at roughly 30 seconds, but doesn’t adhere to a strict definition

·      Twitter sees a video view as being three seconds and 100% viewable

Although most buyers rely upon third party measurement platforms such as MOAT and DoubleVerify to measure viewability, the issue itself remains top-of-mind for buyers, who have generally adopted it as a key metric. However, a recent study on viewability led by media agency conglomerate GroupM found that buyers were frustrated with the metric, especially when they attempted to compare the "views" they purchase across different platforms. Another key issue identified in the study was that the metric can’t yet consistently capture viewability for non-standard ad units, which historically perform better for brand campaigns. Respondents cited reluctance to try more innovative creative executions because they aren’t yet included in current standards.

One bright spot may be the viewable cost-per-thousand impression metric, or vCPM, to evaluate campaign performance. Or, taking it one step further, consider the viewable cost per view (vCPV), which considers not just views and viewability, but also cost.

Marketers know that paying for an ad impression that nobody sees is the very definition of wasted media budget. Focusing on viewable impressions is quickly becoming a powerful way for marketers to gauge the true cost of reaching real consumers.