Why Viewability Standards for Social Advertising Need to Evolve in 2018

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The concept of ‘viewability’ in digital advertising was a much-discussed item in 2017. Viewability refers to how much of an ad is on-screen and visible to a user and for how many seconds.  The current definition for viewability set by the Media Rating Council (MRC) states that an ad has to be 50% in view for 2 continuous seconds to be considered “viewable”.

However, that MRC definition was developed in 2009 — long before the mobile feed as we know it today even existed. Given the advances that have occurred in digital and social mediums since 2009, the MRC’s standard is completely inappropriate for today’s immersive mobile experience. In 2017 we began to question whether viewability was a suitable metric for social advertising, and in 2018 viewability standards will finally evolve to become appropriate for mobile and social mediums.

We have ample data that indicates that marketing impact happens in less than two seconds. Nielsen research shows that 38% of brand recall and 25% of purchase intent is driven by video impressions shorter than two seconds. On Facebook, users spend an average of 1.7 seconds with any given piece of mobile content. If consumers are only spending 1.7 seconds with content that they’re actually seeking out, why should we expect them to spend more time with an ad? The threshold for absorption for advertising certainly should not exceed the amount of time people spend on organic content, and one could make the argument that it should be a shorter duration. That duration metric is something we will see updated in 2018.

The second issue with the MRC standard is the concept of an ad being 50% in view. Being “above the fold” may make sense for display advertising, but there is no “fold” when it comes to mobile newsfeed and social advertising. Today’s immersive mobile formats, whether feed-based or swipe-based, are automatically either full-screen or completely in-view before the video ad plays. Given this user experience, “percentage in view” is just another irrelevant data point for social advertising.

To accurately measure viewability on social, these immersive mobile ad formats found on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat need their own viewability standard that is completely separate from display. Until there is a distinct metric for immersive mobile ad formats, viewability will continue to be a confusing and irrelevant metric for social advertising.