GroupM goes around the IAB to forge 9 separate publisher agreements on viewability

Miskelly: we're not hanging around on viewability.

Miskelly: we’re not hanging around on viewability.

Australia’s largest media agency holding group GroupM has raised the profile of viewability standards in Australia, signing agreements with nine major publishers.

The agreements – which govern the length and percentage of an ad/video that must be visible before it can be charged for – have all been forged outside of the industry body, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

John Miskelly, chief digital officer of GroupM told Mumbrella: “We didn’t feel the IAB standard went far enough so we created our own standards and went to publishers directly, rather than hanging around (for the IAB).”

Fairfax Media, News Corp Australia, Ninemsn, Yahoo7, The Guardian, Mamamia, MCN, Inmobi & Carsguide have all signed up to the agreement, which is based on US standards on viewability as well accepting third party verification from analytics firm Moat.

The new agreements sees GroupM establish 100% viewability on “key placements” or else the advertiser will not pay – well above the IAB’s current global standard for viewability – which is 50% in view for one second for display ads and 50 percent in view for two seconds for video.

“This is a starting point,” Miskelly said. “The important thing for us is that the ad is seen for 100%, as opposed to 50%, and we will obviously build on top of that.”

Manners: viewability far bigger than one agency group."

Manners: viewability is far bigger than one agency group.”

Alice Manners, CEO of the IAB, responded to Miskelly’s remarks this morning, saying they were moving on the topic and that the industry was clearly in transition.

“There is no question that our industry is heading towards 100% viewability,” Manners told Mumbrella. “It is something we all want. Now GroupM is talking about a specific trade deal that two parties can agree to – that’s great news and very positive for them.

“But that announcement from GroupM is a top-down global one, it doesn’t factor into account local market nuances and IAB Australia’s responsibility is to address the entire industry.

“It is clear that there are too many technological constraints at this stage, which mean that it is not ideal to trade on it (viewability).”

Manners also noted the IAB is current running a local market test on viewability to assess the status of the local market.

“In the US (the IAB’s) Sherrill Mane described 2015 as ‘a year of transition’ but it is fair to say that is where we are at as an Australian market,” said Manners.

“We have said it before and we will say it again, it is an industry issue that we all need to tackle together. It is far bigger than one agency group.”

The major announcement from GroupM, which has billings $2.84bn, follows rival agency group IPG Mediabrands launching ‘Project Quality’ back in November, also aimed at raising debate on viewability and adfraud.

That initiative saw them adopt the latest US Media Ratings Council (MRC) standards on viewability, requiring digital ads to appear at least halfway in view for at least one second in order to count and for video ads to play for two seconds to count as as a viewable impression.

Corones: we had to draw a ‘line in the sand’ on viewability

Corones: we had to draw a ‘line in the sand’ on viewability

At the time, Victor Corones, managing director of Magna Global, which handles the trading on IPG Mediabrands’ $1.47bn in billings, said: “It is in the absence of industry consensus on how to tackle issues of viewability and fraud, in that void, it felt like we had to draw a line in the sand.

“Clearly we have to give confidence to clients and it is important to the vitality of the sector that if we aren’t seen to be putting strategies in place then they will start to question the value of the media.”

Asked if he believes the industry needs wider agreement on viewability standards, GroupM’s Miskelly said that was an issue for the wider sector: “I am interested in GroupM clients and GroupM clients only. It’s up to other agency groups what position they want to take on it.”

Miskelly noted that GroupM had drawn on work that had been done in the US on viewability and paid tribute to the nine publishers for coming on board.

“We worked very closely with our global team on the standards and have pretty much replicated what has happened in America and rolled it out in Australia.

“I have to give credit to the Australian publishers in this,” he said. “They were difficult conversations but there was a genuine willingness from all the publishers to move forward on this. They all see the necessity for it.

“It has taken a while because there are a lot of back-end technical operations that need to be set up before publishers could agree to it. I must say I give credit to them for being so forward thinking and entering into this partnership with us.”

Many Australian publishers have been reluctant to be drawn publicly on issues such as third party ad verification, but this agreement sees the nine publishers agree to independent verification of their ad spots by analytics firm, Moat.

“We have gone with Moat,” said Miskelly. “We feel they have the best technology from our side. I’m all for third party accreditation but the important thing here is that it has to be third party; players can’t be the referees, so I’m all for it as long as it is third party.”

Comment has also been sought from the publishers.

Carsguide CEO Lauren Williams told Mumbrella: “Carsguide is committed to working with Group M to deliver on viewability targets so that the auto clients in their stable get maximum value from CarsGuide’s premium advertising environment.”

Nic Christensen

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