YouTube is to provide advertisers with viewability data on their video ad placements amid concerns from brands over transparency.

The Financial Times reported that a move was triggered by complaints from advertisers – including Unilever and Kellogg’s – over the lack of independent verification on the proportion of advertisements seen.

YouTube is now planning to allow third-party ad verification services such as ComScore, DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science to embed code on the site, enabling the collection of data on ad position and context, or viewability.

Video ads are considered ‘viewable’ when at least 50% of pixels are visible on screen for a minimum of two seconds consecutively, according to standards set by the Media Rating Council and IAB.

Greater transparency

While Kellogg’s reportedly removed a campaign from the site earlier this year, Unilever has been vocal about the greater need for transparency in online marketing.

“We see the industry continuing to move in the right direction. Our hope is that these steps will ultimately lead to 100% viewability through third-party verification across the industry,” said the group’s CMO, Keith Weed, talking to the Financial Times.

However, the debate around viewability continues to scupper the potential of a pay-for-performance service from YouTube, as well as adding to the reluctance by large online companies to share data with advertisers.

The right approach?

While brands are justifiably concerned over the issue of transparency in placing ads on the world’s largest video platform, the debate raises the question of whether ads are really best placed with YouTube, especially when users have the option to skip or adjust window size.

“We’re much more likely to enjoy an activity when we have actively made the choice to participate rather than being told to. So why don’t brands adopt the same approach for advertising?,” asks Juliette Otterburn-Hall, chief content officer at social networking platform Beamly.

Advertising budgets would be much better spent on creating content designed to be shared and targeted among actively interested users, argues Otterburn-Hall.

YouTube is expected to allow access for ad verification services by the end of the year.