The New Video Ad Viewability Metric Is Drawing Scrutiny

Advertisers not happy that impressions count after 2 seconds

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The Media Rating Council today is adopting a viewability metric, or “currency,” for online video ads that defines when viewable display impressions count. It’s the industry’s first attempt to address the problem of brands paying publishers for ads no one sees.

While the industry generally welcomes the development, the fine print causes some concern.

Marketers are unhappy about the decision to pay for ads when they’re only watched for two seconds and in cases where only half the video player is viewable in the browser.

“It’s way too short,” said Kevin Scholl, digital marketing manager at Red Roof Inn. “We want to set the metric, but does the starting point have to be so low?”

Amy Dickerson, vp, digital director at Spark SMG—who is already negotiating deals for her clients using the MRC’s metric—agreed. “Two seconds is not, by any means, a great representation of a 15-second [ad],” she said. “But it’s better than what we had.”

The MRC suggested the metric will evolve as ad-tracking technology improves, admitting it has had many complaints about the two-second mandate. “At a certain point, the content on the ad itself takes hold and [can] keep the user present,” said David Gunzerath, MRC svp, associate director. Compared to no standard, he said, “Viewability improves the state of measurement in this sphere.”

Meanwhile, video buyers are hoping that their first impression of the new metric won’t be a lasting one.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.