Group of Web Video Companies Band Together to Ensure Ads Are Viewable

Working in conjunction with 4A's, IAB, ANA

As the Web video ad industry grows, so do the number of questions about the legitimacy of some of the available ad inventory out there. Such questions as: Where are my ads running? And how do I know if anyone can actually see them?

To head off such queries before doubt solidifies, a group of companies in the video ad sector formed a consortium aimed at establishing a common standard for measuring Web video viewability, dubbed OpenVV (Open Video View). The idea is get all the players on the same page when it comes to criteria for defining whether a video ad can actually be seen. And hopefully, the result is that brands get more comfortable—and dollars flow to the medium.

The group includes such frenemies as TubeMogul (which built the tech), BrightRoll, Innovid, SpotXchange and LiveRail (and notably doesn’t include YouTube, Hulu, AOL, Yahoo or the rest of the NewFront crew). That’s because DSPs like TubeMogul, SSPs like LiveRail or ad networks/exchanges like BrightRoll run ads all over the Internet, and thus face the most questions about ad viewability.

"It’s definitely coming up a lot," said TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson. “It’s not as bad as display, but I think when it comes to video that lives in the wild, more clients are wondering.”

The hope is to assuage clients with a common definition of video viewability. But that’s not quite what OpenVV is just yet. Rather, it’s just pieces of open source code, and any publisher is welcome to test and improve upon it. “I think this is the first open source tool in ad tech," said TubeMogul's chief strategy officer, Jason Lopatecki.

Per Lopatecki, the code will let publishers identify the portion of a video ad that is in view and measure the amount of time it's viewed. The code requires no changes to a publisher’s site and doesn't screw up any other ad serving tools or viewability tracking employed by the publisher, he said.

The thinking behind an open source code is that a standard developed and set by the industry as a whole has a much better shot at general acceptance than one dictated by an individual company. "We don't think there’s a sustaining competitive advantage in maintaining viewability," said Lopatecki.

"If we solve it for ourselves it was meaningless," added Wilson. "It needs to be an industry approach."

To that end, the consortium developed—in conjunction with ANA, the 4A's and the IAB—Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) principles, which are being submitted to the 3MS leadership and the Media Rating Council (MRC). The system has been successfully tested across hundreds of millions of video ad impressions and thousands of publisher sites, and all parties plan to share each others’ data as things move forward.

Next up: getting more video purveyors on board. Google’s been invited, as have others. "We've just spent the last few months of putting all the pieces together," said Wilson.