The European Viewability Steering Group (EVSG) has published a framework of standards for what counts as viewable impressions in Europe in the latest industry step aiming to set up consistent guidelines.

The cross-industry Group launched in 2015 by the IAB Europe, World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and European Association of Communications Agencies hopes to ensure that “harmonised best practice standards and guidelines” will become the benchmark in digital advertising across markets in Europe and beyond.

EVSG defines a served ad impression as viewable once it’s been contained in the “viewable space” based on pre-established criteria, for instance, a percentage of pixels and the amount of time within the viewable space. The Group is yet to specify whether or not there should be a minimum of time spent viewing the ad for it to adhere to the principles, and the proposals for mobile will remain undefined until later in the year.

The Group is now looking for suitable auditors to ensure those principles are being met. Companies will be able to undergo audit and get certified with a seal recognised by all participating markets in Europe.

Ongoing problem

From platform to agencies and even advertisers, each body has their own standards and such inconsistencies result in distrust and lack of efficiency in the industry. Viewability issues and ad fraud cost the industry hefty sums as it’s estimated the amount of money wasted on invalid impressions reached $7.4 billion in 2016 in the US alone. The newly-launched set of guidelines follows a number of other industry-wide actions to improve the quality of digital advertising and measurement solutions.

In its guidance document, EVSG acknowledged “the contribution to the development” of the rules from bodies already having similar initiatives in place including BVDW in Germany, Digital Ad Trust in France, JICWEBS in the UK and the MRC in the US.

Voluum’s MD, Gavin Stirrat, believes that as digital grows, advertisers’ budgets are at risk and more needs to be done to prevent this.

“The existing MRC standard for viewability, 50% of the pixels being visible for at least one second (or two seconds for video) feels weak, and indeed there are many brands and agencies that already demand higher standards,” he explained, adding he believes EVSG’s proposals are designed to set up more rigid definitions.

The unanswered question of ads on mobile is something marketers feel needs to be addressed.

For Sharon Lindqvist, director of marketing at Widespace, it’s crucial to treat mobile separately from desktop.

“Mobile is a clutter-free ad environment, and most publishers never show more than one ad on the screen at any time, compared to desktop where users are normally exposed to three or four ads at a time,” she argued, adding consumer behaviour differs on devices, which has a big impact on the way the industry should be assessing standards for mobile.

Stirrat also believes rules need to be set for mobile, “It’s slightly concerning that mobile specific application of these standards will remain undefined until later in the year, given this is a larger channel than desktop for display advertising,” he explained.