Mobile app viewability: the opportunity to be seen

Tuesday, January 05, 2016
By: Meridith Miller

It’s a new year, but that doesn’t mean the contents of last year are no longer with us! In fact, one of the most talked-about topics in 2015 will be an area of focus for MoPub in 2016, and that topic is viewability for mobile in-app ads. Whether you’re a publisher or a buyer, viewability matters to you because it matters to marketers. As in-app formats continue to evolve, and mobile in-app advertising grows, viewability and its measurement will be critical to both publishers and buyers.

With this post, we are continuing our focus on supply quality , with attention being placed specifically on viewability. Here we will discuss why it matters, its current state in mobile in-app, and how MoPub is addressing the topic now and moving into 2016.

What is viewability?
Viewability is defined by the Media Ratings Council (MRC) as “the opportunity to see.” We can think of this concept as analogous to the billboard model. When a marketer places an ad on a billboard, anyone who drives by the billboard has “the opportunity to see” the ad. Likewise, the marketer can drive by, see the billboard, and confirm the ad has been placed. When applying the same concept to digital, measuring the viewability of the ad in-app is the equivalent to the marketer being able to validate that consumers can see their billboard by driving by. Since the in-app marketer can’t see every single ad placed in every single app, measurement for the marketer becomes critical.

viewability-graphic-w-logo

By way of background, viewability in desktop developed largely as a result of ads that appeared below-the-fold and with the emergence of non-human traffic. In June 2014, the MRC originally published Viewable Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines for desktop browser-based advertising (updated August, 2015), stating that for viewable ad impressions to be counted, 50% of ad pixels must be in view for at least one continuous second for display formats, and for at least two continuous seconds for video formats. Marketers began to require third-party verified measurement to confirm that their desktop campaigns were in compliance with the MRC guidelines. Vendors including Integral Ad Science, MOAT, DoubleVerify, and comScore were subsequently accredited by the MRC to provide desktop viewability measurement.

While the inherent nature of in-app inventory is not faced with as great a viewability concern as desktop. Whether it’s a static banner, interstitial, or video, the ad is usually on-screen in an in-app environment. However, as devices proliferate and mobile in-app advertising evolves, we believe addressing viewability on mobile may become as critical as it has been on desktop.

The current state of mobile viewability
Over the course of this past year, the discussion on viewability measurement has swiftly made its way to mobile in-app advertising. However, there are still two outstanding factors that affect mobile in-app viewability and measurement today.

  1. Mobile viewability guidelines are still being determined by the MRC.
    First, MRC viewability guidelines are not yet finalized for mobile in-app advertising. In May 2015, the MRC published interim guidelines for mobile viewability , which align with the existing desktop standards. It also assembled its Mobile Viewability Working Group to establish the viewable impression guidelines that will reflect mobile’s unique environment. Along with other industry leaders, MoPub is a member of the working group, and we collectively provide feedback and data directly to the MRC for guideline development.
  2. Mobile in-app viewability measurement still presents technical challenges.
    Second, the vendor tags that marketers use for desktop measurement were not built for the mobile in-app environment. Likewise, mobile in-app measurement solutions are still being accredited by the MRC and are not yet enabled on in-app supply at scale. Unlike on desktop where measurement is enabled by the demand side with a tag, the in-app environment requires that the supply source support the vendor measurement solution directly. This naturally makes it more challenging for the marketer to get access to measurement analytics. And given the technical limitations, vendor tags used for desktop measurement should not be used today for mobile in-app measurement.

How MoPub is addressing viewability
Having the ability to measure viewability matters – to both publishers and buyers alike – and we believe that measurement support is an important step in maintaining a high-quality exchange. Over the past few quarters, we have been collaborating with the leading measurement vendors and are actively working with the MRC to help establish the right outcome for the industry. Expect to hear more about how MoPub will support measurement for mobile in-app viewability in the coming months.

For our buyers today, MoPub strives to provide transparency into how buyers are billed. Unlike exchanges that charge on “auction won,” MoPub charges for non-native inventory when an auction clears and we deliver the ad to the device. For native inventory, we adhere to the MRC mobile interim guidelines, which means we bill when at least 50% of the ad pixels are on screen for a minimum of one second. While some exchanges claim the ability to provide mobile in-app viewability guarantees, MoPub has chosen to pursue a longer term solution that will ultimately align with the impending mobile in-app standards as well as mobile-first measurement technologies.

We’re excited to kick-start this new year embracing the collective opportunities in front of us. MoPub views supply quality as a key success factor for both our publishers and our buyers, with viewability being a core pillar of that high-quality focus. Together we will continue to move the industry forward. Here’s to 2016!

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