Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know About Viewability


There may be no bigger hot button issue in digital advertising right now than ad viewability. Every industry event seems to have at least one panel discussion focused on the topic and there’s been an endless stream of commentary on the issue in the media. Yet for a subject that receives so much attention there’s still a great deal of confusion surrounding it.

That’s why we put together a “cheat sheet” for everything you need to know—but might’ve been afraid to ask–about viewability.

What is viewability?

“Viewability” is an online advertising metric that tracks only impressions actually seen by users. For example, if an ad is loaded at the bottom of a webpage but a user doesn’t scroll down far enough to see it, that impression is not considered viewable.

Is there an agreed upon definition of viewable?

There are two main governing bodies pushing for a standardized definition of viewability: the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council (MRC). Digital media differs from other forms of media in that ad effectiveness is measured on an impression-by-impression basis. Traditional media such as TV commercials use measurement based on averages, such as how often a commercial is played on TV. Because digital media is measured on an impression-by-impression basis, it is not enough to serve the ad for it to be considered effective. The ads must also be seen.

For display ads, the IAB and MRC define a “viewable” impression as one that is at least 50 percent visible for a minimum of one continuous second. For video ads, it is defined as 50 percent visible for at least two seconds. “50 percent visible” means that 50 percent of the ad’s pixels appear above the fold.

Are there other standards of viewability?

Viewability is a growing concern among advertisers because non-viewable impressions can be considered an ineffective use of budgets. A survey conducted by Integral Ad Science (IAS) in December 2014 showed that 78 percent of advertisers surveyed felt that the IAB and MRC standards for viewability were not strict enough. In the case of video, for example, the IAB and MRC standards do not take into account whether the sound is on for an ad, which can detract from the ad’s effectiveness. Many advertisers have therefore begun implementing their own metrics for viewability.

How much of a problem are non-viewable impressions in the industry?

Even using IAB’s and MRC’s current standards, eMarketer estimates that only 50 percent of ads served on desktop are considered viewable. Mobile performs better by consistently achieving 70 percent or higher in viewable ads, but viewability remains a hot button issue in part because so few marketers agree on or even know what current viewability standards are. Recent research from Econsultancy found that 43 percent of senior marketers in the US and UK use viewability to determine the success of their programmatic ad campaigns, while research by firm SQAD found that nearly half of the marketers it surveyed thought that the minimum amount of time a video should be displayed for it to be considered viewable was five seconds or more—over twice the current standard.

What is PubMatic’s approach to viewability?

At PubMatic we have decided to tackle the viewability issue head-on in a transparent way we believe will help both buyers and publishers. We recently signed an agreement with Integral Ad Science (IAS) that will allow us to provide viewability metrics to both our publishers and demand partners.

Today, many of PubMatic’s demand partners already use a third-party tool to help measure viewability. What makes PubMatic different is that we plan to have IAS scores passed on to the publishers—not just media buyers. Our publishers will be able to use this data to create Private Marketplace offerings for their most viewable ad inventory, for example. Since viewable ads help marketers achieve their campaign goals by showing ads to audiences, they’re frequently willing to offer a higher bid for viewable inventory. Offering packages of their most viewable inventory is a great way for publishers to maximize the value of their digital assets. It also provides buyers transparency into inventory that they haven’t had to this point.

To learn more about PubMatic’s Brand Shield solutions click here.

Don’t Worry, Be Relevant!


kmBy Kirk McDonald, President of PubMatic

This piece originally appeared on The Drum.

Technology usually accelerates everything that it touches.  This acceleration leads many of us to do a lot of fretting about the sudden changes technology brings to our culture, habits, businesses and economy.  Therefore, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at all by any of the hand wringing over the impact of technology on the media and advertising business.

In the 1800’s, people worried that the telegraph would corrupt our youth and disrupt polite society – yet we somehow survived. A few decades ago, these concerns were re-run as the world came to terms with a then new technology called television. Today, some again lament the supposed decline of culture, journalism and civilized discourse in the digital age, and the very future of the media and advertising businesses even as they work to find sustainable responses to “digital disruption”.

As we embark on our annual pilgrimage to Cannes, the truth is that our industry will do more than survive, it will thrive as technology creates new opportunities to deliver better experiences for customers – and improves the health of our businesses.  So if I may, we would all do well to take the sage advice of the songwriter Bobby McFerrin, with a twist: “Don’t Worry, Be Relevant.

It’s not the technology that anyone should be worried about.  The real challenge is relevance. With more impressions on more screens and in more places than ever before, it’s a tremendously exciting time for marketing. However, being an impressive impression demands a new set of skills, data and technology.  For the consumer, marketing is becoming less intrusive and more helpful.  The promise of a relevant message tailored inside a media environment consumers are largely curating for themselves is the new reality. New skills and imagination are required for us to capture attention in the moment when consumers express their intention.  This is a much more purposeful moment and requires a more thoughtful engagement.

Not everyone will find a significant role in the media world where relevance is king.  As the advertising and media businesses shift to a new paradigm organized around data and technology, some players will have to exit stage left, as they are simply unable to evolve their businesses to meet the challenge. Others will emerge and thrive as they embrace the more fluid and effective ways to understand and connect with their consumer.  We should expect some bad actors along the way, who will try to exploit this period of accelerated innovation to use technology, data and automation to arbitrage on the ignorance of others.  They’re a distraction and a problem, and will have to be weeded out.  In these cases, technology is not the problem it’s the people behind the machines. However, for the rest of the industry there is so much more to be celebrated as we engage consumers in more relevant ways.

Technology and data are enabling content producers to be more relevant to their readers and viewers, and the publishers to package and sell advertising inventory in a way that is more relevant to the buyers. The virtual chain of relevancy continues as data and technology also allows advertisers to cut through the proverbial noise and clutter to make each impression matter more.  So even in a world where there is an almost infinite supply of non-differentiated advertising impressions, technology and data are enabling relevancy to become the new model for differentiation and value.

For us at PubMatic, we’re excited to be the technology provider offering the marketing automation software for publishers to manage their inventory, and for buyers to discover and plan their media campaign strategies. Our industry is at a very critical stage. Our sustainable response to the digital disruption will come from our ability to create relevance in the moment. The concept of “real-time advertising” might have to be amended to the idea of “right-time advertising”, “right-time messaging,” “right-time creative” and “right-time consumer experience.” This sustainable model will ultimately flow from our embrace of data and technology  and the skilled ability to use them to create right-time relevance for the consumer’s media and advertising experience. So, again in the words of Bobby McFerrin: Don’t Worry, Be Relevant!

Counting Down to Cannes 2015: Discover What’s Possible with PubMatic


In just a few days, PubMatic employees from across our global network of offices will board flights bound for the beautiful Côte d’Azur to attend the annual Cannes Lions festival. PubMatic is proud to be a part of the Cannes Lions a fourth year. This year at Cannes we are planning on unveiling some new initiatives and products as well as meet with industry leaders and discuss the future of media and advertising.

While the PubMatic team will be attending many of the week’s events, throughout the festival you will always find members of our team in the Sean Connery Suite at the Carlton Hotel located on the main Croisette. Feel free to stop in, grab a cocktail and hang out on the terrace or schedule a one on one meeting with President Kirk McDonald. To schedule a meeting click here.

Also please be sure to attend the “Chasing Unicorns” panel discussion on Tuesday, June 23 featuring Kirk McDonald and several other industry leaders, which will examine how today’s media, advertising, and technology companies are finding and keeping their talent. Adweek’s Editorial Director James Cooper will moderate the panel. More details here:

We hope to see you at Cannes!

The Elements of the New Sales Organization for Publishers


By Evan Adlman, VP Publisher Development, Americas

For most publishers, the last decade has been one of unprecedented change and upheaval. The rapid proliferation of ad formats, ad channels and the evolution to a real-time ad sales market has changed publishing in ways that even the industry’s smartest minds could never have predicted. While the core fundamentals of creating content and then monetizing the audience drawn to that content by making it available to advertisers remains the same, the way all of this is done has quickly changed.

That significant change would seem to beg an obvious question: if the business environment that publishers are operating in has changed so dramatically what is changing inside the publishing companies themselves? It should come as no surprise that the skillset of the folks driving sales and revenue inside publishers has changed. Here’s a quick overview of what has happened.

The Sales Team

First things first, sales organizations are still all about sales and relationships. The cliché has always been that the proverbial three-martini lunch or steak dinner with agency clients will seal the deal. While the new tech-focused environment has made many think that paradigm is over, there will likely always be a place for building and maintaining relationships with larger advertisers.

That said, technology will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in the ad sales process. By 2018, $53 billion of all global ad spend will be spent programmatically, according to Magna Global. Still traditional direct buying will continue to be a significant part of the market as well. So publishers need a sales force that is comfortable having a holistic discussion (direct and programmatic) with clients. Many publishers have initiated trainings to ensure that their sales force has a mindset that allows them to be comfortable in those discussions.

Yield Management

Beyond the sales force, publishers need to make sure they have the right mix of folks that understand the ins-and-outs of the data and technology involved in running a publishing business in real-time.

One of the key needs are people that at a micro level can optimize how a publisher’s inventory is packaged and sold. These folks are often math and data focused professionals or the so-called “quants” that are able to get into the details of the data and find ways to increase yield and revenue.

Technology Management

The final piece is a team that understands how all of the technology pieces fit together and how to manage them as a functioning tech stack. This team should be able to determine the type of solutions a publisher needs to be effective including essentials like their SSP and DMP and the other necessary pieces to build out a full programmatic stack. This team should be able to evaluate platforms and solutions from a technological perspective and determine the best current mix and also anticipate how the technology may change in near term.

As publishers adapt to a world that is moving at the speed of real-time, succeeding in this dynamic market will often mean getting it right internally. While not all publishers will be able to execute this change management exercise at the same rate, the market is making it imperative that publishers evaluate the skill mix of their staff on an a consistent basis.

Why Now is The Time for Programmatic Native


By Graham Mosley, Senior Director of Native at PubMatic

Native advertising is one of the most exciting developments in the digital advertising world over the last few years. While there’s been some debate about the exact definition of “native advertising,” it has largely been adopted as an umbrella term for long-form branded content, or “advertorials,” sponsored video, traditional ad units that mimic the design of the surrounding page, and other forms of sponsored content. To many people, the term “native” has come to describe any advertising designed to integrate seamlessly into the user experience. At PubMatic, when we talk about “programmatic native,” we are talking about snippet or teaser in-feed ad units themselves, not the branded content that they may lead to after the click.

Native is an appealing format for several reasons. It’s engaging in ways that traditional banner ads aren’t. It breaks through consumers’ blindness to banners and marketing fatigue. It’s a natural fit for mobile – in fact, you could call it the first “mobile born” format. When done well, native sits perfectly within a media ecosystem powered by cross-device usage, social sharing and the popularity of short-form content snippets. This enables new creative possibilities for brands.

Because native promises a seamless user experience, it is seen by many as a “bespoke” format. Most early branded stories or paid posts were lovingly hand-crafted one at a time, which led to inevitable questions about scalability. Since native must be so tied to the design and structure of a publisher’s site in order to provide a coherent content experience, is it even possible to scale native advertising?

We are just now starting to get past this perceptual gap and move into a world where native can increase its reach, scale and efficiency dramatically by leveraging standard categories and programmatic infrastructure.

In February of this year, the IAB released OpenRTB 2.3, which includes native, and updated its Native Advertising Playbook, demonstrating that the format doesn’t have to be as artisanal as it appears. In fact, nearly all native advertising falls into one of these standard categories, the Core Six:


  • In-Feed Units – These ads are integrated into a site’s so-called news feed. This format originated on social media sites but is becoming more common across publisher sites.
  • Paid Search Units – These ads are served to consumers on search engines related to the consumer’s search terms, most often served alongside organic search results.
  • Recommendation Widgets – These units are integrated into the main well of the page and does not mimic the appearance of the editorial content. It is often presented with language that includes “You might also like” or “You might like.”
  • Promoted Listings – These units are found on sites that often don’t have traditional editorial content; they are common on e-commerce sites like Amazon or Etsy.
  • In-Ad with Native Elements – This is an ad in a standard IAB container placed outside of the editorial well and contains relevant content within the ad as well as links to an offsite page.
  • Custom (None of the Above) – This category is the catchall for any other type of native units the industry can conceive.

The IAB does not dictate the components or creative assets associated with each of the five native categories, but they all utilize the same general assets. This allows buyers to construct a general native campaign with these assets and buy at scale using programmatic technology because standardization means a much larger pool of native inventory available for purchase.

Until recently, most native efforts were developed by point solutions or special platforms custom-built by individual publishers. Now with emerging standardization, we will see a shift in the way native campaigns are executed, one that resembles the shift in traditional ads away from individual ad networks to a more open and integrated exchange of inventory that can be bought and sold programmatically.

Native is a new and emerging world that requires a new type of campaign workflow and asset management. These workflows and management processes need to match publishers’ varying ad sizes. However, now that we have the common framework for the connections and categories of native, we are prepared to connect buyers and sellers together at scale, unlocking the true promise of programmatic native: highly effective and targeted advertising that can reach large audiences in real-time.

To learn more about PubMatic’s platform for native advertising, click here.

The ABCs of Programmatic Continued (M-P)

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For the third installment of our ABCs of Programmatic series –where we try to help demystify programmatic by defining some of its most frequently used buzzwords –we define terms from “M” through “P” taking us from Marketing Automation through Publisher.

• Marketing Automation: A software category that streamlines, automates and measures workflows to increase efficiency and grow revenue faster.

• Marketing Automation Platform for Publishers (MAPP): A control panel for publishers that enables them to manage their sales, pricing and packaging, and go-to-market efforts strategically and at scale. A MAPP does this by automating the publisher’s marketing value chain, including everything from identifying and qualifying new buyers, nurturing buyer relationships, executing sales to identifying future opportunities to upsell and cross sell.

• MRAID (Mobile Rich-Media Ad Interface Definitions): A standardized set of commands, designed to work with HTML5 and JavaScript, to define common API requirements that allow rich media to run across multiple mobile apps. Source: IAB, PubMatic

• Native Advertising: Advertising that is contextualized to appear as a part of the content experience and developed by brands, specific publishers, or media platforms. The intention is to create relevance between the advertising message and the environment in an effort to improve advertising effectiveness for the consumer and for the advertiser.

• Non-Premium: The proverbial “long tail” of publishing. When seen in the context of your favorite site or service, these are the pages that are not prominently featured or are deep into the site. However these pages still retain a value for the advertiser.

• Non-Guaranteed Inventory: Content that is sold by publishers through ad networks and using ad exchanges/branded marketplaces. Often the publisher is willing to be more flexible on the pricing of this inventory, as the delivery is equally flexible for the advertiser.

• OpenRTB: A standard for the Real-Time Bidding Interface intended to set the requirements bar and simplify the connection between suppliers of publisher inventory (i.e., exchanges/branded marketplaces, SSPs, etc.) and competitor buyers of that inventory (i.e., bidders, DSPs, etc.) Source: IAB, PubMatic

• Pixel Tagging: Also known as Pixel Tracking, refers to a tactic used by marketers to track who is clicking through ads and trafficking to landing pages by placing an object on the page that retains information and delivers the information about this device to the web site host. Source: Digiday

• Premium Mobile: Mobile inventory that is enriched at the impression level with location data, rich media capabilities, device IDs, and mobile application data.

• Private Marketplace (PMP): Customized, invitation-only marketplaces that provide publishers with the ability (through an SSP) to designate certain inventory and sell it to a select buyer or group of buyers with an emphasis on margin improvement for the seller. Unlike a direct buy, which can be quite labor-intensive, buyers in a Private Marketplace use programmatic methods to purchase from publishers. Source: PubMatic 2015 Programmatic Outlook Report

• Programmatic Advertising: The use of software to improve the buying and selling of advertising through workflow automation and algorithms. The innovations in this area have redirected human involvement to more strategic tasks and replaced some repetitive actions with more efficient and effective technologies to drive better targeting and campaign placement optimization. Source: Digiday, PubMatic

• Programmatic Direct: An umbrella term for all electronically facilitated deals between buyers and sellers across both guaranteed and non-guaranteed inventory utilizing Automated Guaranteed workflow, Private Marketplace, or RTB.

• Publisher: A digital entity that provides content or services with the primary goal of offering a consumer value proposition, and deriving advertising as a business model.

Why Publishers and Buyers Should Insist On An Open Ad Sales Ecosystem

By Rob Jonas, Global Chief Revenue Officer

Rob Jonas, PubMatic 1As the real-time ad sales market continues its evolution, many technology players have built platforms and tools that are designed to offer market participants open access to the vast pools of demand and ad inventory that exist across the entire ad sales ecosystem. This approach views the real-time ad sales market as essentially one market.  The companies that subscribe to this approach want to provide buyers and publishers with a complete and unbiased view into a fast growing and dynamic market where they can interact with one another with as little friction as possible.

Yet there are other platforms and media owners in the programmatic space that have adopted a less open approach. They have built their technology around the premise of a closed ecosystem. In this model, buyers and sellers interact in a closed environment. Much like life inside an exclusive gated community, everything is seamless and pleasant—as long as you are living inside the community. However, imagine if you were encouraged never to leave this gated community.  Sure, the golf course, shopping mall and spa are great, but there’s also a whole world outside the community that you should visit and keep tabs on.

In some cases, a closed platform can bias buyers towards the ad inventory of media properties owed by that platform. In other cases, the closed technology is designed as part of an effort to create a sort of “uber exchange” that generates friction with buyers and sellers operating outside the platform. Here the goal seems to be to nudge those players operating outside the ecosystem into the closed environment in hopes of building market share.

Beyond the fact that closed environments only seem to benefit the entity that owns and controls that environment, there are clear reasons why an open ecosystem make sense for both publishers and buyers.  As programmatic buying continues to skyrocket in popularity, more buyers and more ad inventory are added to the market daily. Magna Global estimates that global programmatic buying reached $21 billion in 2014 climbing by 52%, with no significant slowdown in sight.  Indeed as new players join the market, we are seeing more complexity overall and a general fragmentation of buying. Integrating these new demand and supply sources is easier for everyone in an open environment.

We speak to publishers every day and they ask us for recommendations on whom they should work with, often touching on the perceived benefits of closed ecosystems. Our view is that demand is hyper-fragmented and becoming more so. Discounting part of the buyer ecosystem by working with a subset of its players limits your opportunity to maximize the value of your inventory.

Buyers and sellers should ask their technology partners what their stance is on open environments vs. closed environments. Do they offer demand and supply from across the entire market or are they building a (closed) network that creates friction when a buyer or publisher wants to transact with a party outside the ecosystem?

PubMatic is dedicated to offering our publishers demand from any and all sources across the ad sales market. We have also designed our platform so that buyers can transact in whichever way they feel best suits their needs; whether Open RTB, Private Marketplace or Automated Guaranteed, and across desktop, mobile, video and native, as programmatic continues its assault on traditional advertising. Not only are we dedicated to the open ecosystem ideal – PubMatic was founded on it.  That is because we believe that an open ecosystem benefits both buyers and publishers. You know, the people the technology is supposed to be helping in the first place.

A Field Guide to Programmatic Publishers (A Slideshow)


When publishers are considering their programmatic strategy, they need to make a number of important decisions.  In the early days of programmatic, publishers made many of these decisions on the fly. However, as the real-time ad sales market matures some clearer patterns have evolved for how publishers manage their overall strategy.

We have identified seven categories of publishers – each reflecting a different approach to creating opportunity from the real-time ad sales marketplace. While there are a variety of approaches to balancing revenue goals with customer experience, we tried to broadly define these categories so that most publishers will be able to determine where they fit.

The characteristics and challenges of each of these publisher categories are outlined in the slideshow below. You can read the original piece, “What Type of Publisher are You?” in the Programmatic Outlook Report.

A Publisher’s Guide to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2015

Famed Internet forecaster and venture capitalist Mary Meeker released her annual Internet trends report this week. As usual, it provides a deep dive into all of the ways the Internet is continuing to evolve and impact every aspect of society on a global scale.  This year the presentation is 197 slides long and while it’s worth a read for anyone interested in the meaty subject of how the Internet is shaping our world, there are some trends that are especially relevant to publishers. Take a look at the top five we highlighted below.

1) Even As Media Consumption On Mobile Has Exploded, Desktop’s Consumption Is Steady

Consumption of digital media on mobile devices has climbed from about 18 minutes per day in 2008 to nearly 3 hours in 2015. And even as this has cut desktop’s share of digital media consumption to 42% from 80% during that period, total time spent on desktop has actually remained relatively the same.

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2) Tremendous Opportunity Emerging in Mobile As Ad Spending Will Catch Up With Consumer Time Spent

Print receives 18% of total U.S. ad spending while consumers are now spending just 4% of their time with print media. By contrast, mobile is earning just 8% of ad spend but is receiving 24% of consumers attention. Meeker suggests, “print remains way over-indexed relative to time spent.”

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3) Mobile Ad Spending Is The Engine Driving Global Internet Advertising Growth

The total global Internet advertising market was $133 billion in 2014 compared to $59 billion five years earlier. Overall year-over-year growth has slowed but continues to be buoyed by 34% year-over-year growth in mobile advertising even as annual desktop growth slowed to 11%. Additionally, eMarketer projects that mobile will account for 56% of programmatic spending this year, surpassing programmatic desktop spending for the first time.

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4) Monthly Average User (MAU) Growth Is Slowing for Social Giants

Facebook’s monthly average user (MAU) growth slowed to 13% in Q1 2015 from 23% in Q1 2013. During the same period, Twitter saw MAU growth slow to 18% from 48%. Both companies are also seeing average revenue per user (ARPU) growth drop from their peaks experienced in early 2014.

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5) Vertical Viewing Is Growing Due to Mobile

As more consumers spend a greater percentage of their day viewing content on the mobile – or vertical screens – there may be a case to be made that ad inventory should be made to fit that experience. A key example would be Snapchat’s use of vertical video ads. Additionally, programmatic video is projected to grow over 440% between 2014 and 2016 to $3 billion.

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See the entire Internet Trends Presentation below: