In what could be a watershed moment for the ad viewability movement, web traffic analytics firm spider.io has earned accreditation by the Media Rating Council for viewable impression measurement. What sets the spider.io service apart is its ability to measure the viewability of individual display ad impressions across all major desktop browsers in any iFrame environment and regardless of iFrame nesting.
Ad serving within iFrames has been one of the major impediments to measuring viewability. While iFrames help publishers protect their sites and their users from hackers and fraud by essentially cordoning off the ad space from the rest of the site, iFrames hinder the ability to serve rich media ads and significantly limit recordable rates and transparency for viewability measurement.
The service from spider.io, however, is the first of its kind to be able to measure viewability in unfriendly iFrames across the major desktop browsers including Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer without breaching user privacy. The image below illustrates the browsers and versions the service can work with (the “+” signals “or later” versions).
The spider.io service gives any display ad exchange or ad network to sell viewable impressions across their entire desktop-browser ad inventory. They can build attribution models based on viewable impressions and institute viewable frequency capping. The service also enables storyboarding or serving sequential display ad creatives across multiple viewable ad impressions.
To give an idea of the company’s breadth of coverage, spider.io looked at the week ending April 8, 2013:
95.4% of observed impressions were from major desktop browsers, and spider.io provided full viewability classifications for 87.7% of display ad impressions served to major desktop browsers. A full classification for an individual display ad impression includes metrics like: the time taken until the ad first comes in view; the longest continuous time the ad is in view; and the cumulative time the ad is in view. Typically three times will be provided for each of these three metrics. The first time for each metric is for at least one pixel of the ad. The second time for each metric is for at least 50% of the ad. The third time for each metric is for the whole ad.
Fifty percent viewability for at least one second is the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s proposed standard. In March, the IAB released its own alternative to traditional iFrames called SafeFrames 1.0, which publishers can transition to enable viewability measurement.
Spider.io has identified several issues with SafeFrames and points out that SafeFrames is safe so long as the publishers themselves are trustworthy. It is possible for publishers to modify the SafeFrame code on their sites and return bogus results to advertisers. SafeFrames also does not support nested frames, which many apps and sites rely on.
For example, “a platform provider such as Facebook cannot encase their apps in SafeFrames and have their apps further include ads in SafeFrames.” In contrast, the spider.io service can measure viewability in unlimited nesting environments and provide transparency beyond the IAB’s viewability standard of 50 percent.
Google received MRC accreditation for its viewability measurement tool Active View at the end of April this year and announced it would soon stop charging advertisers for served ad impressions and begin using viewable ad impressions as the standard metric on DoubleClick and the Google Display Network. Google is the market leader in display advertising with 15% revenue share in 2012 and that lead is expected to grow to nearly 25% by 2015, according to eMarketer. However, that still leaves three quarters of the market looking for a solution.
The spider.io service has the potential to become the standard solution outside of the Google properties. TripAdvisor went the independent route and adopted viewability as its standard using a delayed ad call. It’s possible others could choose an in-house option, but it seems spider.io has an attractive service for ad networks and publishers looking for a ready-made solution that offers security and flexibility — not to mention the ability to capture higher CPMs from advertisers willing to pay for verifiable ad views.
Several ad networks including Legolas Media, Adconion Media Group and Bannerconnect signed on with spider.io to provide viewability forecasting and measurement services ahead of today’s announcement.