Google Sets New Viewability Standard for Web Ads

Company won' t charge brands for unseen banners, video

Google is looking to set the tone when it comes to making sure real people can actually see ads served on the Web.

On Thursday, the company said that it will only charge for viewable ads. Google said it has worked directly with the Media Rating Council to define viewable ads using the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s proposed standard. That is, at least 50 percent of an ad must appear on a screen for one second or longer. Google calls its viewability product Active View.

The online video industry has been wrestling with how best to define whether ads are truly viewable or not. In fact, the lack of a standard definition has caused major problems in the marketplace, and independent bodies like the Media Rating Council have actually advised companies not to transact on viewable ad impressions until next year. But Google is ready to move now. 

That's huge, given that Google's Display Ad Network is the largest one in the business, and any move the company makes is hugely influential. Google's adherence to the new IAB standard could force other ad networks and exchanges to make similar declarations. That could also make online ad fraud more difficult to perpetrate.

Google says its already seen improved performance for campaigns that employ Active View, which makes sense, since people that actually see ads are far more likely to respond.

While many intuitively suspected that increased viewability would directly translate into better campaign performance, we now have data to back that up," wrote Neal Mohan, Google's vp, display advertising in today's blog post.