Snapchat Is Rolling Out a New Viewability Score to Help Advertisers Know If People See Their Video Ads

It's working with Moat, which is subject to independent audits

The mobile app looks to improve its ad metrics. Sources: Getty Images, Snapchat
Headshot of Christopher Heine

Snapchat isn’t going as far as letting the Media Rating Council independently audit its ad clients’ campaigns six weeks after the ANA called for all major digital platforms to do so. But it’s taking an MRC-minded step in that direction, while giving brands more insight into whether consumers actually see Snap Ads, the full-screen, vertical videos that have shaken up the industry in recent years.

Today, Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, is starting to offer select advertisers a viewability score—validated by measurement firm Moat—that’s designed to meet the MRC’s guidelines for whether videos warrant chargeable impressions. The score will become widely available on June 5.

The MRC might not be auditing Snapchat, but it does audit Moat. So behind the scenes, the MRC will eventually weigh in on the criteria in the new viewability score, including a potentially interpretive “strong user interaction” element.

“It will be subject to our next audit of Moat,” David Gunzerath, svp and associate director at Media Ratings Council, told Adweek. That next audit will occur in late 2017 or early 2018, he said.

MRC guidelines state that greater than 50 percent of an ad’s pixels should be “on an in-focus tab on the viewable space of the browser page.” Video ads, the nonprofit watchdog mandates, require two continuous seconds of viewability. Its recommendations do include leeway for campaign measurers to determine that an ad should be paid for when strong user interaction, such as a mobile tap or desktop click, is evident. Gunzerath said the interaction “requires compelling empirical support that the action does, in fact, represent a legitimate proxy to determine the ad was viewable.” In such case, the ad can be counted as viewable even if it does not meet the pixel and time criteria.

With that last detail in mind, Snap Ads include the option for consumers to swipe up on ads to get more content. That signal appears to fall in line with the MRC’s directives, so Snapchat video advertisers seem to be getting improved results-based information via Moat. The Snapchat-Moat viewability score is being presented to multiple advertisers today for the first time, likely a strategically timed move to coincide with the launch this week of the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts. The development also comes three days after agency holding company WPP making a $200 million commitment to Snapchat.

“We’re proud to play a key role in measuring industry standards for viewability along with helping marketers discover the key metrics that correlate to business outcomes,” added Moat CEO Jonah Goodhart in a statement. “In this case, MRC’s interaction-based viewability standard along with its duration-based standard tell an important story on Snapchat for marketers in the mobile age.”

It’s worth pointing out that the MRC suggests rules but does not attempt to dictate transactional metrics for chargeable impressions in the marketplace. Meanwhile, it works with industry groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau to mediate issues between buyers and sellers.

Promising stats

Snap, which didn’t offer comment for this story, would probably contend that marketers are often going to like what they see in the viewability score. Before those numbers roll in, there is never-before-seen data on Snap Ads afoot.

According to a new Snapchat case study, NBC’s Hairspray Live, a musical that aired in December, got 26 million video views from its campaign going into the event. People 21 and older who saw the ads three to five times showed a 155 percent increase in self-reported viewership compared to others.

More generally, in the fourth quarter across advertisers, Snap worked with researcher Millward Brown Digital, and they are reporting that Snap Ads produced 1.6 times better brand favorability and purchase intent when contrasted with Millward Brown’s averages. They said ad awareness was 1.3 times greater in the fourth quarter compared with Millward Brown’s norm. The mobile player is also stating that sales lifts have been as high as 1.6 times better when compared with the norm for clients that utilize Oracle Data Cloud. (Oracle, coincidentally, bought Moat for a reported $800 million on April 18.)

And finally, the shorter the ads, evidently, the better the results. Millward Brown’s Q4 research found that Snap Ads with impressions of two seconds or less contributed to a 60 percent jump in ad awareness versus views of more than two seconds. In fact, per Snap, Hairspray Live garnered twice the number of viewers from those who saw two seconds or less as those who saw more.

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