The European ad industry is publishing its first set of viewability principles as it looks to create a standards framework that it hopes will become the benchmark online.

Currently, different platforms have different viewability standards. For example, Facebook counts a view as 50% of an ad being in view for one second, while Twitter uses a standard of 100% in view.

Agencies also have their own standards, with GroupM only counting an ad as viewable if it is 100% in view, while others use lower benchmarks. And even advertisers are conflicted on what should count as a view. Unilever has long said it expects 100% viewability, while Procter & Gamble (P&G) accepts a standard of 50% in view for at least one second.

The issue of different standards was brought to the fore by P&G’s chief brand office Marc Pritchard in his major speech at the beginning of the year. In it he criticised the “lack of standards in measurement and verification” and said this has resulted in a “complicated, non-transparent, inefficient and fraudulent media supply chain.”

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The new European-wide framework aims to help reduce these discrepancies, providing a “quality benchmark” that should improve the accuracy and consistency of measuring viewable impressions. Launched by the European Viewability Steering Group, set up at the end of 2015 by the IAB Europe, WFA and European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA), it has published the first set of European viewability principles and is now looking for suitable auditors to ensure those principles are being met.

Alison Fennah, executive business advisor at IAB Europe, says: “With digital ad spend surpassing €40bn it’s ever more critical to reinforce the quality of the digital advertising environment to underpin the delivery of free content. Ensuring that viewable impressions are measured correctly and consistently is a key first step. This initiative is designed to enable Europe’s varied markets to collaborate and create regional standards and deliver local growth.”

Raising quality standards in digital advertising

The move follows industry-wide calls to improve the quality of digital ad inventory and develop more robust measurement techniques. This is considered vital to developing better and more reliable brand exposure metrics that can be better compared with other media formats, such as TV.

The work has four main goals:

1. To raise minimum quality standards in digital advertising measurement for all stakeholders across Europe.
2. To enhance the (internet) user experience in the context of changing user
expectations.
3. To measure digital ad exposure, which is deemed a key step towards increasing
confidence in digital ad trading.
4. To improve confidence in the digital ad environment.

The initiative will allow measurement companies to undergo an audit to ensure their tools meet the standards. If they do they will gain a ‘Seal’ that will be recognised by all participating European markets, meaning there is no longer a need for market-by-market accreditation in Europe.

The move is the result of extensive consultation with industry stakeholders including publishers, media agencies, advertisers, measurement companies, ad tech providers and trade bodies. And it is hoped it will help create consistent, global standards, as well as being the first step in addressing other challenges in the digital ad ecosystem.

Rob Dreblow, global head of marketing services at the WFA, says: “While advertisers investing online often work with their own definitions of a viewable impression, it is critical to have a baseline of quality in terms of how to measure a genuine opportunity to see. Building on the excellent work in the US and UK, we hope this initiative will serve to help markets around the world reduce discrepancies and improve the quality of viewability measurement as this project develops into global guidance.”