May 28, 2014

Is the end of the viewability issue within our sights?

By Pierre Chappaz, Chairman and CEO at Teads

It’s an uncomfortable fact for the digital media industry that over half of the ads bought by brands globally on the Internet today are never viewed by web-users – and the situation is getting worse.

ComScore estimated that 31% of ads were never seen in 2012 and this number increased to 54% in their June 2013 study.

This year’s study will no doubt show the same trend and it is due to a number of reasons: many sites may not be displaying all content in a satisfactory manner due to the device being used, the ad might be placed below the fold or the page might get closed down before the ad has even been seen. Worse, the ad can be hidden behind a pixel and yet still be counted as an impression when it never got displayed in the first place!

Brands pay for impressions but have no way to understand when they are getting value for money and when they are being robbed. It’s an unsustainable situation.

Increasingly official industry bodies such as the IAB are taking a close look at this problem and are seeking to define what constitutes ‘viewability’. For a display ad to be considered viewable, the web-user must see at least half of the pixels for one second. For a video, it has to be half of the player, which needs to be viewable for two seconds. The Media Rating Council, which the IAB is part of is leading a trial program, measuring campaign viewability. However, this hasn’t yet been widely adopted by the market. Something must change.

Here is what a viewable ad is based on this definition:

A programmatic black hole?

The sharp increase in programmatic buying of online advertising is making the viewability debate all the more pertinent. 

Agencies buy supposedly qualified impressions in marketplaces even if a large percentage of these contacts are fictitious as the web-users will never see the ad. This is a major problem, don’t you think?

The IAB and 3MS initiative recently published the same alarming trend on their website:  60% of programmatically purchased ads are not viewable.


Let’s hope technologies evolve significantly in the near future to put a stop to this situation, which is harmful to advertisers and to our whole industry. We have to acknowledge that the situation is not easy to fix but we must also admit that something must be done about it.

Our solutions

1. CPV

At Teads, we’ve been working on a viewability solution for video and I believe our solution is quite radical. Instead of selling impressions, our business model is based on offering user-initiated completed views. The videos we distribute across sites, blogs and apps are billed to the advertisers on a CPV (Cost per View) basis.

Our formats also never ‘auto play’ – they don’t launch on their own. Historically we have looked to pioneer a click-to-play format: the video only starts after the user clicks on the player. With a CPV billing model, advertisers only pay for the users who have watched the full video.

2. View-to-Play

Last year, Teads created a new concept, which I think, is truly revolutionary: View-to-Play.

The View-to-Play concept guarantees viewability with the video only playing if it is viewable by the user. Teads’ format inRead was the first to follow this idea of View-to-Play. Efficient and respectful of a user’s browsing experience, the format has been quickly adopted by many of the largest global media organisations.

inRead radically solves the issue of viewability whilst opening a large inventory for premium brands: it’s what Americans call “a game changer”. Old formats like pre-roll just went out of fashion!

Following inRead’s success, Teads created other formats based on the same View-to-Play concept.

What is interesting with this concept is that it creates a powerful advertising experience while respecting the user’s browsing experience. The user can easily avoid the ad if he is not interested, he just needs to keep scrolling.

Here is an example of the inBoard format, a format which offers the most powerful branding solution in the market.

The View-to-Play brings an easy and elegant solution to the issue of ad viewability.

Teads developed the concept on other formats such as the inFeed for social media and inPictures for slideshows.

We have so many more ideas and a 100-strong team of engineers based in Montpellier, Toulouse and Paris who continue to innovate. There are many new advertising experiences to create on the Web. And especially on mobile!

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