Mobile is a hot topic. Viewability is perhaps even hotter. Bring the two together and you have some sort of digital marketing nuclear volcano.
Well maybe. Mobile viewability is a subset of the overall “has my ad been seen and by who” issue, but a particularly tricky one. The lack of a unique user ID is the clearest roadblock. But it’s also clear that the various technologies and vendors used to solve mobile advertising delivery issues, often create further fragmentation.
Fragmentation is especially critical when understanding exactly how ads are delivered to a mobile webpage or app. In mere milliseconds – the time it takes to load a webpage or app – a typical mobile ad is requested, analyzed, bid on, approved, and served. That’s the reality of the coming era of programmatic advertising as many of you know.
A recent infographic from The Mobile Majority walks us through the steps required for all these technologies to work together. And with a whole swathe of brands and ad tech firms in the mobile first APAC region committing unequivocally to the future of programmatic, the mobile viewability issue is not going to go away.
Understanding Mobile Viewability 
In simple terms, the entire journey of an ad, from initial request to final display, has to happen really fast. That’s what programmatic necessitates. During such a rapid journey, handoffs between technologies and vendors have to be clean and consistent.
Once the ad is actually placed, a whole other set of considerations emerge. Publishers control their site or app, deciding how and where to place the ads that get delivered. On the other hand, tech vendors control how the ad is rendered. How that rendering interacts with publisher placement can go a long way in determining viewability.
Mobile ads are also becoming more complex. The banner ad, although still incredibly popular, is receding to the back of the most-effective-ad discussion. Taking its place at the front are rich media ads and video, which offer much higher levels of interactivity, engagement and ultimately conversion.
But higher levels of creative require – you guessed it – more layers of technology. Try to integrate this creative across different operating systems, app formats, web browsers and connection types, and you have countless opportunities for viewability to break down.
And here’s the final problem: we don’t even have a set of viewability standards for mobile yet. The IAB standards are designed for desktop, and therefore really only helpful as a frame of reference. So while we wait for official mobile guidelines (expected by the end of this year), viewability on mobile will continue to have a frontier feel to it. Hopefully, there won’t be too many outlaws.