Good news for those in the display advertising market, as for the first time, industry ad watchdogs are permitting trade against viewability metrics.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK has today lifted its advisory on viewable impressions, which could effectively now be the start of a new trading currency for those wishing to implement them.

The IAB said it has released the set of UK Viewable Impressions standards to offer guidance and greater accountability for advertisers.

The standards have been released to enable the entire marketplace, agencies, advertisers and publishers to benefit from improved quality, accountability and effectiveness of digital advertising.

While discrepancies between different measurement providers are inevitable, the IAB said extensive work is underway to address the issue to provide greater transparency and guidance to the market.


The IAB’s director of data and industry programmes, Steve Chester said today’s announcement heralds a new era in delivery measurement for the advertising industry.

“Moving to viewable impressions offers the valuable prospect of guaranteed impacts for advertisers, who in 2013 spent £1.9 billion on digital display,” Chester said.

“As with any major change, a bedding-in period will be required to fully implement and take advantage of the benefits such as increased brand effectiveness of online, and address challenges such as discrepancies between viewability vendors.”

The standards state that 50% of pixels must be in the viewable portion of an internet browser for a minimum of one continuous second to qualify as a viewable display impression for a standard display ad.

For Rising Stars/large canvas ad formats (at or in excess of 242,500 pixels, equivalent to the size of a 970 x 250 pixel display ad), given their substantial size, the guidelines state that 30% of pixels must be in the view for a minimum of one continuous second to qualify as viewable. Standards for video, mobile and tablet have not yet been determined, but are expected later in 2014 and beyond respectively.

Why pay if not seen?

The Incorporated Society for British Advertisers’ (ISBA) marketing services manager, David Ellison, said advertisers should not have to pay for ads that are not seen.

“The viewable impressions standards will go some way to answer ISBA members’ demand for a move away from ‘served’ ad impressions to ‘viewable’ ones,” Ellison said.

“Ultimately we want online ads to be comparable to other media that offer the ‘opportunity to see’ as the basis of an ad measurement currency.”

These mirror guidelines released in the US at the beginning of April, following extensive collaboration between IAB UK and IAB US to agree common transatlantic standards, ensuring consistency across both markets.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) consultant head of media and emerging tech, Nigel Gwilliam, said: “We support the option of trading on viewable impressions where the buyer considers it appropriate.

“However, cross industry efforts will and must continue to address discrepancies between the results of different viewability service vendors.”

IAB Europe is also leading discussions and analysis across Europe evaluating brand advertising metrics and viewable impressions within its Brand Advertising Initiative, as well as establishing priorities for measurement within the IAB Europe Brand Advertising Framework.