BT's Zaid Al-Qassab calls for UK to adopt own viewability standards

BT chief brand and marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab has called for the introduction of UK-specific viewability standards instead of "waiting another 10 years" to get globally-agreed standards.

ISBA Conference: viewability panel
ISBA Conference: viewability panel

Speaking at today’s (6 March) ISBA Conference at The Troxy in East London, Al-Qassab was joined on a panel by ISBA’s director of media Steve Chester, Virgin Media chief marketing officer Kerris Bright and Unilever vice president media, Europe, Latam and global operations, Sarah Mansfield.

The debate was moderated by iotec chief executive Paul Wright.

Addressing current viewability standards, Al-Qassab commented: "In any other industry, if you were talking about paying for something you don’t get, you would think it’s ridiculous."

While Mansfield argued that digital is a "global medium", with transactions across borders, requiring a "global standard we can optimise against", the BT marketer retorted that the search for international agreement was being used as an "excuse to hinder progress".

Instead he cited the "imperfect" proposition offered by BARB for TV measurement, and suggested British advertisers seek out a similarly local solution for digital viewability.

"While I agree with Unilever, I’m considerable more pragmatic. If we try to get a global standard, we will spend another 10 years arguing and letting publishers off the hook. I would be happy with a UK standard. I fear global is being used as an excuse to kick the can down the road," said Al-Qassab.

It follows today’s call by ISBA for digital media owners to offer advertisers the ability to buy display ads at 100% in view. The current Media Rating Council (MRC) guideline is 50% in view.

All three marketers agreed that they would be prepared to pay more for 100% viewable digital inventory, but Bright insisted that some consideration should be made for the intended outcomes of ad campaigns.

She commented that, as both a brand advertiser and a company investing in direct response ads, Virgin Media has found there to be differing viewability "sweet spots". While the company insists on 100% viewability for brand ads, it is exploring lower rates of around 50% for more direct response-type activity.

"We’re on a journey to find out what the minimum should be," Bright added.

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