GroupM bets on viewability standards to drive transparency in digital ads

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on March 20, 2018 Published on March 20, 2018

Sees digital advertising expenditure in India growing by 30% to ₹12,337 cr in 2018

Making the digital medium more effective and accountable for advertisers, GroupM’s rollout of viewability and accountability standards support continued investment in digital media. Advertisers are keen to invest only in effective advertising and do not want to waste their money on non-vieweable ads.

Though GroupM, the media investment management group of WPP, has had viewability standards in place for some years in the US — and has insisted that an ad must have 100 per cent of the pixels in view for some duration of time on all ad formats for an ad to count as a payable impression — it is now leading the conversation in India on measurement and transparency in digital media.

“At this stage we are advising clients to start on the journey of measurement and audience verification and encouraging them to optimise spends towards higher viewable media environments,” CVL Srinivas, Country Manager, WPP, and CEO of Group M South Asia, told BusinessLine.

GroupM estimates the digital advertising expenditure in India to continue to grow by 30 per cent in 2018 to ₹12,337 crore. Video advertising on digital is estimated to grow at 54 per cent, as bandwidth improves and data and mobility devices become more economical for the consumer.

Though GroupM released viewability standards that were higher than those stipulated by the Media Rating Council in the US, the agency is working with industry bodies, brands and publishers in India to adhere to a standard viewability index that would become integral to the digital ecosystem.

Gaining credence

As digital becomes 18 per cent of the overall advertising spends in India, measurement and transparency has become paramount. It has also gained credence in the advertising community as a result of the significant increase in media budgets in recent years being allocated to the digital space.

“Accountability was always important in the marketing and communication business,” said Anil S Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi. “Now, with tools that can measure the effectiveness of the activities, it has become an absolute critical factor,” he added.

Noting that there are many non-human elements, like bots, who can register clicks and impressions on advertisements, the official said advertisers looking to pay for impressions that are never even seen by human beings are thus deceived.

Other advertising agencies, too, have their own viewability standards. Apart from GroupM, the Publicis Groupe, a French multinational advertising and public relations company, has also rolled out its own accountability efforts for digital advertising.

Stricter criteria

Some brands, too, have joined the chorus, maintaining that requirements are not stringent enough and are coming out with their own viewability standards that meet stricter criteria. Last year, Procter & Gamble’s global chief brand officer Marc Pritchard’s speech at the US Interactive Advertising Bureau meeting in Florida had blown the lid off the issue of digital transparency and threw the world of digital marketing into turmoil.

Subsequently, Procter & Gamble cut $200 million in digital ad spend, and reduced spending with several big players. Though the company did not identify the media brands that it discontinued working with, the cuts helped the company eliminate 20 per cent of its ineffective marketing and helped increase reach by 10 per cent.

“Companies and advertisers, irrespective of the category that they represent, seek return on investment for every marketing dollar spent, which is the new way of life,” explained Nair.

Globally, FMCG companies and multinationals like Unilever, Shell, Subway and Volvo, among others, are backing the new standards and are likely to put more pressure on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and Google to make sure they are transparent with measurement.

“The traditional media for long has hid behind reach and frequency objectives. They now have to speak the language of efficiency and impact. We will see more of this in the coming days in our industry,” added Nair.

Concerns around digital measurement, transparency and accountability have been posing a threat to both advertisers and publishers. While advertisers complain about not getting value for their money, since most of their ads do not reach their intended audience, publishers are upset about ad blocking software being increasingly used by consumers.

On their part, consumers complain of incessant ad intrusion and distraction from unsolicited advertisements.

To curb the chaos in the entire digital advertising ecosystem, GroupM has decided to take the bull by the horns.

Agreeing that the question of advertising effectiveness is critical to any business, GroupM’s Srinivas said, “Discussions over which standard to follow is fluid at this stage, though we believe that GroupM is leading this discussion globally and in India”.

Publicis Media has also been navigating this continually evolving space.

Published on March 20, 2018
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