The Push for Web Ad Viewability: A Response

by | Jan 28, 2015

Early yesterday, Mike Shields of the Wall Street Journal published this in-depth article about the complexities of ad viewability and the challenges they create for advertisers, publishers, and vendors alike.

Sadly, this isn’t the only recent report on the sad state of the industry. Tyler Loechner of MediaPost covered the Winterberry/IAB report that revealed “over half of marketers are using 5-10 different toolsets, while one-fourth are using 11-20 different technologies” just last week.

Some reported using over 30 solutions. Yikes.

So how did we get to this point? Research shows that people actually prefer using software that works together because it offers key benefits like enhanced functionality, efficiencies in procurement and implementation, improved customer-vendor relationships, and superior knowledge and best practices.

It could be in part that fragmentation of the industry was actually applauded not long ago for encouraging innovation and keeping prices low for advertisers. Conflicts of interest, they warned, would arise if integrated vendors failed to remain neutral on the performance of their individual products.

But today, we now know the ad-hoc, fragmented approach simply doesn’t work.

We experienced it ourselves in 2013 as we tried to scale our rewards platform into the existing ad tech ecosystem and watched our engagement rates plummet. And we hear the frustration from advertisers and agencies weekly who can’t get their piecemeal solutions into alignment.

Steps Toward a Mobile Viewability Solution

Identifying problems and proposing solutions are a necessary first step for the industry, even if the trade organizations responsible for outlining such objectives disagree on the exact definitions, requirements, or desired outcomes for their constituents.

Even well-intentioned ad tech vendors are building dedicated solutions to address individual components like deliverability, targeting, ad fraud, measurement, and more.

But the problem doesn’t lie in the intent; it lies in the execution of the solution.

The velocity at which data must be requested, analyzed, returned and measured physically cannot be reached in order to properly connect each of the third-party dots.


Solving the viewability problem requires a holistic approach – one that vendors are either incapable of understanding, unwilling to acknowledge, or ill equipped to take on.

Are we biased in believing an integrated approach is the best solution for advertisers? Of course. But it’s founded in the belief that advertisers are entitled to lower costs, greater transparency, and better results – all things the industry talks about daily but hasn’t been able to execute on.

Below is my comment from the original Wall Street Journal article. I am re-posting it here in hopes of furthering the conversation. I hope you add your perspective in the Comments section below.


“I would first like to commend Mike Shields for digging into a poorly covered issue in mobile advertising. Through a bad mix of willful ignorance and acceptance of the status quo, the industry only has itself to blame. Even Google is owning up to it, reporting that 56.1% of their ads aren’t seen. In fact, they are likely one of the better actors in the market.

There isn’t a simple solution for this problem, due to the complex and circuitous path by which mobile ads are built and trafficked. What’s more, the journey from creation to an actual viewed ad is perplexed by a number of moving parts managed and maintained by far too many vendors and commensurate associated fees. This drives up complexity and cost on top of media which hurts both publishers and buyers. For instance, to run any single large scale mobile campaign, a buyer would need somewhere between 4 and 10 vendors. At the very least, they would need vendors to manage strategy, creative technology, ad serving, bidding, targeting, data activation, measurement, reporting / BI and fraud detection.

Every time there is a handoff, whether by computer or more often (still) by humans, of an ad from one vendor to another, there is a loss of data or at least some sort of compromise in quality. Sorting out accountability for final results becomes impossible because no one vendor can be blamed or held accountable. This leads to an opaque and broken marketplace that no one individual participant can fix.

Not only has this created an inefficient system, a distrust in the technology itself has emerged. This is because viewability reporting is just as chaotically layered as the building of an ad. 3rd party viewability vendors often produce inconsistent viewability reports originating from different sets of available data from different layers of the full ad technology stack. This in turn confuses buyers even more and creates a compounding loss of confidence.

The only way to create accountability with a broken and opaque supply chain is to use a fully integrated platform to deliver a campaign. A platform that can take accountability for final results. Sadly there are few if any vertically integrated platforms in the field. In fact my company, The Mobile Majority, is the only one in the mobile space. Let me be clear: when I say vertically integrated, I don’t mean vendors who have partnered to hack together the disparate functions and technology under one buyer invoice. I am talking about a fully integrated and transparent solution capable of ensuring viewability from start to finish. A truly integrated technology platform made to deliver an ad from concept to viewed impression.

Change to this broken system is inevitable and media buyers must begin to favor the final results of a campaign, over a piecemeal approach of working with preferred vendors for niche functions. Inevitably this all leads back to one solution, working with a vertically integrated company that has the visibility, control and ownership of the entire ad stack to expose and root out the problems that are at the core of the viewability issue.”