Amid Accusations of Going Soft, GroupM Clarifies Its Updated Viewability Standards for Digital Ads

It's pushing back on critics

GroupM is changing its viewability standards.
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As GroupM begins rolling out its newly updated—and newly heightened—viewability standards, it’s sharing more about what exactly it will entail.

Today, the WPP-owned media buying agency provided additional details about its global standards, updating its policies from 2014 to be more in line with brand demands and user viewing habits. The change, announced last week, are for display and video ad units on both social platforms and publishers websites.

In a blog post released today, Susan Schiekofer, chief digital investment officer for GroupM U.S., said the clarifications are meant to better explain the changes after some reports described them as a “softening” existing policies. According to Schiekofer, the new standards aim to match the speed of social platforms, which users often scroll through at a faster rate than they might on a desktop device.

“Given GroupM’s position as the world’s largest media investment group, we have heard concerns from various industry players questioning whether GroupM is effectively making it easier for even more investment to shift to the dominant digital players,” she wrote. “The answer is no. However, we must continue to track and analyze all metrics to understand the performance of new ad formats on these platforms.”

The percentage of ads receiving 100 percent viewability in recent years has dramatically improved. According to GroupM, only 18 percent of video impressions met the threshold when it was first announced three years ago before increasing to 55 percent by the middle of last year.

The new standards have already been backed by a number of major marketers—Unilever, Campbell Soup Co., Shell, Subway and Volvo have all backed the changes—and will likely put more pressure on platforms like Facebook and Google to make sure they’re transparent with measurement. Media companies like Hulu and Spotify, along with ad-tech companies like Teads and DoubleVerify, have also embraced higher viewability.

“It has always been our position that an ad that cannot be seen has no value and that our clients should not pay for anything that delivers no value,” Schiekofer wrote. “This belief continues to underpin our thinking about measurement standards in digital as we evolve them for the future.”

The updates are more stringent than those put in place by the Media Rating Council, which requires ads be just 50 percent viewable. (MRC is also currently doing an audit of companies like Facebook to see whether the social network is properly measuring the ads it places.)

Here are the new standards:

  • Display ads will now need to be 100 percent in view for at least one second.
  • Native and outstream video ads will be required to be viewable 100 percent with 50 percent completion of the total length regardless of whether sound is on. It also is applicable for both ads that automatically play and for those that are user-initiated.
  • Infeed video ads will need to be 100 percent in view with or without sound.
  • Pre-roll and mid-roll video standards will remain unchanged with 100 percent viewability and 50 percent completion. These videos also require the user to initiate play and the sound on.