Facebook’s latest step toward giving its advertisers the most accurate measurement of the effectiveness of their campaigns is its focus on viewed impressions, as opposed to served impressions.
Only counting and charging for impressions when they have occurred on-screen, and not merely been served, is not a new practice for Facebook, which used a Facebook for Business post to explain the differences between viewed impressions and served impressions, and why it focuses on the former.
The social network introduced the concept as follows:
Not all ad impressions are created equal. Increasingly, advertisers, publishers and advertising-industry groups are adopting the position that it’s better to measure viewed impressions rather than served impressions.
At Facebook, we agree that viewed impressions are a better way to measure ad delivery. The reason is simple: If an ad is viewed, it has a greater chance to drive value for an advertiser. That’s why we use viewed impressions to measure ad delivery across desktop and mobile.
If an ad is served, it means that a publisher has told its system to deliver an ad. As long as the system registers delivery of the ad, it’s counted as a success. What happens next is less certain. The ad could appear someplace where lots of people see it, like the top of a website homepage. Or it might be served without anyone ever seeing it. For instance, the ad could appear far down at the bottom of a Web page (below the fold). Or a person could visit a site and then leave before the ad has fully rendered.
Viewed impressions add an extra layer of analytical rigor, as well as common sense. They more accurately define delivery and help ensure that people have seen the ads they’re supposed to see.
We measure an ad impression the moment an ad enters the screen of a desktop browser or mobile app. If an ad doesn’t enter the screen, we don’t count it as an ad impression. In the next few months, we will apply similar standards to organic content from businesses.
Facebook also offered three reasons why viewed impressions are better for advertisers:
- Value: Our research shows that value is created as soon as an ad is seen, even if only a portion of the ad was seen for a brief period of time.
- Consistency: Our measurement standards are applied across all interfaces (mobile and desktop) and ad types, allowing for easy cross-media measurement and comparison.
- Fair pricing: Using viewed impressions as the standard makes it easier for our ad-delivery system to ensure that advertisers pay a fair price for the real business value their ads create. We don’t charge for impressions that aren’t viewed.
The blog post also addressed Facebook’s work with the Media Rating Council:
The shift from served impressions to viewed impressions is ongoing. In 2014, the Media Rating Council released a standard for measuring viewable impressions on desktop. The MRC standard represents when the “opportunity to see” an ad is established; it doesn’t purport to represent an ad’s effectiveness, or when a brand message is transferred. Some advertisers and agencies have added additional criteria to better understand the effectiveness of their ads on driving business outcomes, including Facebook. The MRC supports these efforts.
We are working with the MRC and a consortium of advertisers and agencies to develop more robust standards for viewable impressions. Our goal is to work with the MRC, our partners and industry leaders around the world to help apply further standards for feed-based websites like Facebook, mobile media and new ad formats.
Finally, Facebook shared some quotes about viewed impressions from advertisers and industry analysts, both in the blog post and in an email to SocialTimes:
MRC CEO and executive director George Ivie:
We’re working closely with Facebook, and they’re doing compelling research around the viewable status and value of advertising of all types of impressions on their media, including those that quickly come in and out of view on a person’s screen. We will continue to collaborate and ensure that we consider the learning relevant to feed-based, mobile focused publishers in our viewable impression standard going forward.
Adherence to viewable impressions is one of the reasons we count Facebook as a primary media partner. We buy ads to grow our business, not fill impression quotas, and we don’t invest in creative only for it to go unseen. Reasonable standards are good for media buyers and providers.
ZenithOptimedia executive VP of activation standards, insights and technology Julian Zilberbrand:
Any effort by marketers to reach consumers is driven by the concept that their message has the opportunity to be viewed, which is why we align with Facebook on their approach to viewability. By working closely with our media partners like Facebook and the Media Rating Council, we hope to lead the charge on setting standards for viewed impressions that would drive the industry in the right direction and, in turn, ensure that our clients get the most return on investment.
Nielsen executive VP, Global Watch product leadership Megan Clarken:
Viewability is a fundamental that not only enables fair play in advertising, but is a key factor in understanding advertising reach.
Digitas chief investment officer Adam Schlachter:
Our clients continue to seek value for investment, across all media and formats, including feed-based environments. And they deserve an equitable, valuable and consistent measurement approach that is accountable and logical. DigitasLBi supports and is actively involved in shaping viewability standards for all media platforms and publishers that are centered around common sense, fairness and, of course, a value-based consumer experience.
Starcom MediaVest Group executive VP and global research director Kate Sirkin:
Viewability is different in the feed world. We applaud Facebook’s work with the MRC to improve this space and are committed to data-driven learning regarding what levels of viewability are most valuable across message types from both a conversion and branding standpoint. We believe advancing our industry’s knowledge of the impact of viewability and how to value inventory based on it will increase confidence and return for advertisers.
Magna Global senior VP of ad operations Mitch Weinstein:
At IPG Mediabrands, we believe that no client dollar should ever be spent against an ad that never has the opportunity to be seen. As such, we are actively working with our digital media partners to make viewable ads the default impression-based currency for digital media advertising. This involves partnering with Facebook to determine the best approach and methodology around viewability in relation to feed-based environments, an increasingly important medium for our clients.
Readers: What do you think of Facebook’s emphasis on viewed impressions?