Group M considers an ad viewable when 100% of the pixels in a display ad are in view; and for video, 100% of the video must be viewable for 50% of its duration.
This is an evolution of the video standards Group M released in 2014 which required that 50% of the video must be played at the user’s initiation, with the sound on, while 100% in view.
"Back then, Snapchat didn't exist and mobile social video wasn't what it is now. This change is important because, by insisting on sound and user-initiation were essentially making a binary exclusion of Facebook and Twitter which autoplays videos with the sound off," John Montgomery, global executive vice-president of brand safety, Group M explained. "We either had to say never use Facebook or Twitter, or we had the change the standards."
Group M has been optimising towards its standards of viewability in the US since 2015. When the agency first started, only 18% of video impressions met Group M's standard. By mid-2016, 55% of impressions met the standard.
"We found what we were doing was making a huge difference because we were rewarding publishers who gave us the most viewable inventory with more investment," Montgomery said.
Now there is sufficient inventory in the US that meets the standard, Group M can begin trading 100% on human-viewable inventory for the past six months.
This practice cannot yet be rolled out globally as there is not necessarily the same amount of viewability in every country, Montgomery added.
"Just speaking off the cuff, we can assume that Canada, Australia, the UK and Germany would have a sufficiently high level of viewable inventory, but less developed countries are unlikely to do so," he said. "So we will do what we do in the US and see where else we have no problem pulling the sufficient amount of inventory."
Measuring and maintaining the standard
To check that the inventory used in Group M-managed campaigns meet the standards claimed, the media group has partnered with measurement companies ComScore, Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Moat.
"We continually assess campaigns using their tech against our standards and we get daily and weekly numbers from them," Montgomery said.
This does incur a slightly higher cost for clients as there is a charge for viewability metrics, but Montgomery described the amount as "pennies".
"It's available to all our clients who decide to measure viewability. All our major international clients measure viewability, fraud and brand safety as a matter of course," he said.
Group M's key clients have declared their support for the move, including Unilever, Campbell Soup Company, Shell, Subway and Volvo Cars.
"Unilever and Group M have been at the forefront of the viewability and transparency conversation," Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer, Unilever, said in a statement. "We support Group M's ongoing assessment in this space to reflect changes in consumer behaviour and available ad formats, and to ensure full accountability and verification."