Facebook weighs in on the viewability debate, as it looks to prove that it provides the best ad product for brands

Facebook weighs in on the viewability debate in a look to prove that it has the best ad product for marketers, as part of a wider effort to highlight its value for brands this year.

The social network states in its company blog post, that it only measures ‘viewed impressions’ on its ad platform as advertisers increasingly adopt the position that it is better to measure ‘viewed impressions’ than ‘served impressions’.

If a brand looks at ‘served impressions’ it means that the ad platform it uses has simply delivered an ad on to a browser, and it is counted a success no matter where the ad ends up on the screen. ‘Viewed impressions’ add to this measure as it also looks at whether the ad was is in the right place to be seen by users, according to Facebook.

“For years, served impressions have been a standard unit of measure when it comes to digital ad delivery. However, measuring served impressions means there’s often a big gap between the number of ads served and the number actually seen,” says Facebook.

Facebook currently follows guidelines set by the US-based trade body the Media Rating Council, which describes a ‘viewed impression’ as a viewable display ad that shows 50% of the pixels of the ad on a browser page which has been viewed for at least 1 second. The ad must also be in the ‘viewable space of the browser page’, which means it is at the top left hand side of the browser as soon as the page loads.

Facebook believes that by measuring ads purely by viewability, it will provide better value, consistency and fairer pricing for brands when using its ad services.

Recently, brands have increasingly challenged the effectiveness of the viewability standards set by the Media Rating Council. In October 2014, Unilever pushed the council to set higher standards of viewability that incorporates seeing the ad for a longer period and better visibility.

Bob Wootton, ISBA’s director of media and advertising, told Marketing Week that a move towards trading on viewable over served impressions is good news, but the next step lies in what we consider is an acceptable standard for a viewable impression, as many brands feel that current standards are not enough.

Wootton adds: “Trading on viewable impressions will quickly become a standard; just as trading what clients find satisfactory also become a standard in the future.”

Facebook is a US based company and therefore follows the standards of the Media Rating Council, but it will increasingly face pressure for higher viewability standards from UK brands, Wootton told Marketing Week.

Viewability standards set by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK, also state that 50% of the pixels for ads must be seen for at least a second as soon as the browser page has loaded.

Alex Tait, Marketing Week columnist and former EMEA digital director at Kellogg’s, told Marketing Week that the viewability standards already set are a good start to let the advertising ecosystem adapt to new measurements, but he calls for the industry to set a definitive date to raise the viewability standard.

Tait adds that Kellogg did a study with ComScore, which showed that a 40% increase in viewability generated a 70% sales lift. He recommends that brands should work with agencies to define what the right measure of a viewable impression is for their business.

Facebook’s contribution to the viewability debate comes as the company looks to reassure marketers of its value. During the platform’s earnings call last month, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer for Facebook, said that the social network plans to invest aggressively in measurement tools for marketers this year.