Viewability, Made Clear.

At the upcoming Seller Forum on March 12th, I'll be moderating a thoughtful and - hopefully - productive discussion on the latest thorny issue in our digital greenhouse: ad viewability. Over 50 senior sales leaders will be in the room, and this particular discussion will feature three key stakeholders from the agency world - Mitch Weinstein of IPG Mediabrands, Merkle's Angelina Eng, and Jon Hsia from Mindshare. The pithy headline of this post notwithstanding, we all know there are no simple answers on viewability. But we can and should be sure we're asking the right questions. Here are the questions that I think will move us to a better place.

Who wants to be the last one defending the idea that an advertiser should pay for an ad that has no chance of being seen? I don't think I'll get any takers on this. So let's assume that we all agree on a common destination where the currency we exchange is based on viewable ads.

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What are the true motivations that drive the positions that clients, agencies, publishers and others have taken in this discussion? If we answer with words like greed, laziness, stupidity or arrogance, we're guaranteeing that we'll end up making bad decisions en route to bad policies. Underestimating or oversimplifying motivations in a complex negotiation is a tragic mistake.

Do we all really understand the words we're using? What's measurable is a subset of what's served. What's viewable is a subset of what's measurable. It's complex even for those in the thick of it. Before we rush into the technical minutiae or defend our various positions, what might happen if we took the time to say: "Tell me exactly what you mean by that term? I want to be sure I understand."

Might there be a better way to optimize publisher business outcomes? Our assumptions have always been based on volume. More pages. More ad calls. More streams. In the rush to more, we've settled for less. Less quality. Less control. Less trust. We've tried building strategies around abundance: should we give scarcity a shot?

Does anyone not think that 17 different "accredited" viewability solutions is too many? It's possible that there's a great new option out there - a fresh idea that nobody's considered - but I think we have to consider whether the cost of further iterative innovation outweighs the benefit of just settling on one set of referees. TV decided on who would provide ratings 40 years ago, and I think they've done relatively OK.

Who benefits if nothing changes? I'm trying to imagine a legitimate marketer, agency, publisher, creative producer or additive technology whose positive future is tied to "more of the same." There is going to be short term pain and a rethinking of financial expectations all around in the meantime. But maybe it's time to realize that the only "wrong" choice is no choice at all.

There are just 3 seats left for The Seller Forum. If you are a qualified national media sales leader and want to be part of this discussion, reach back to us today.