GroupM evolves viewability standard for social media

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 18 August 2017

GroupM has evolved its viewability standards with new benchmarks for social media display and video ads.

Since 2014, WPP's investment arm has been trading on a basis that digital impressions must be 100% viewable to count.

For display, 100% of pixels must be in view for at least a second. For video ads, the whole frame must be in view and play for 50% of the ad's duration with sound on.

On publisher websites, GroupM only counts video ads that users choose to play rather than ad units that automatically play, with the timer starting after an ad unit has rendered, rather than when a webpage loads.

GroupM's standard for social media newsfeeds is that display ads must be 100% viewable for at least one second and it is fully viewable video ads are 50% completed. 

A work in progress

GroupM has provided social media platforms two notable concessions: video ads do not require sound and autoplay impressions are also counted.

This makes it much easier for social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to register video impressions than publishers, which are restricted to user-initiated ad units. 

GroupM noted the 50% completion requirement was a "recommendation", indicating that it hasn't quite settled on a duration metric with social media partners.

The standards are much higher than Australia's industry standard of 50% pixels for one second for display and two seconds for video.

Critics of the 50% viewability benchmark point out that cropping half of the pixels of a display ad often removes branding and key messaging and two seconds of a video ad isn't long enough to make any sort of impression on a viewer.

In Australia, about 55% of all ad impressions on desktop meet this standard, according to recent IAB/PwC viewability benchmark.

GroupM has been trading on the whole ad viewability basis in Australia for at least a year. Its group deals with publishers typically hit higher rates for the whole ad benchmark, allowing some flex to negate technical issues like slow internet speeds and browser problems.

The higher GroupM standard means publishers don't get paid for impressions that meet the industry standard but fall short of GroupM's benchmark.

GroupM has been working with them to improve viewability scores, which can be impacted by a range of factors such as slow loading ad units and poor design.

The aim is to provide clients with greater confidence their digital ad dollars are being spent on inventory that can be seen, minimising wastage. Another benefit has been a lift in engagement scores.

In the US, which has been trading on 100% viewable impressions since the policy was first announced in 2014, the proportion of video impression that met GroupM's standard has increased from 18% to 55% in mid-2016.

“Our ambition is to offer clients the absolute best quality digital media in every market,” said GroupM EVP of brand safety John Montgomery says.

“By working with clients and progressive media and technology partners, we can help shape the digital marketplace for the better, as we have seen in the US. It was always our goal to operate around a consistent standard globally and following many months of partner dialogue, now is the right time for us move forward with these enhanced standards that consider the evolution in social and mobile platforms, as well as user behaviors.”

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