“Viewability” is a metric designed to track the number of ad impressions that can actually be seen by users, not simply the number of ad impressions served. This has been a significant topic in the digital advertising marketplace over the last two years or so, as programmatic inventory has increased and, with it, the number of impressions served that weren’t necessarily viewable to a user (think bottom-of-page ad units, users that bounce from the page before an ad fully loads, etc…).
Advertisers were rightly concerned about the effectiveness of their buys, as they were less certain than ever that their ads were being seen. Due to this concern, some standardization has now been created around this: according to the Media Rating Council, the standard metric for a “viewable” impression is that 50% of the ad must be viewable on the screen for at least one second (two seconds for a video ad).
This metric has helped to improve the inventory and clean out the “clutter” and less than ideal placements, and has given advertisers actual numbers to rely on for effectiveness.
So, if the viewability issue is getting better, why should advertisers and agencies still care?
For an advertiser that’s engaging in primarily cost per click, bottom funnel display tactics to drive direct response performance, viewability is not a problem. On a CPC model, it doesn’t matter whether a user sees your ad, only that they clicked it; you are charged per click not per view (impression).
However, mid and upper funnel tactics that are intended to drive awareness or engagement are reliant on their ads being seen. After all, how can a user engage with your media or become aware of your brand or product if they can’t see your advertising? Not all ad inventory is viewable, even with improvements and standardization (and likely never will be, given the different ways sites can be monetized and media can be purchased). If the program is bought on a CPM (Cost per Thousand Impressions), viewability should absolutely be a part of the conversation an advertiser has with its agency.
Mobile ad buys, especially, are still faced with significant viewability issues. Though users are spending more and more of their time on their mobile devices, vs. desktop, mobile ad inventory (including in-app ads) still present more of a challenge. The load time for mobile ads, which can be up to 5 seconds — roughly 2x that of desktop load time – is a problem. Users want speed and efficiency when on their mobile devices, and their appetite for page load is even lighter on mobile than on desktop. MOAT Analytics is a leader in the space of auditing in-app ad viewability, and others such as Integral Ad Science, DoubleClick and even Facebook have all doubled-down in viewability as a key measure.
What should advertisers be doing about this right now? DAC believes that any advertiser engaging in non-desktop, non-CPC digital buys should be talking to their agency partners about viewability, and deciding together what’s acceptable and what’s required for a successful program.
The goals of each tactic and program should inform this decision: 100% viewability or a vCPM (Viewable CPM) buying model may be applicable if an advertiser is attempting to increase their brand awareness. If the goal is a cost-per action/lead, or some other calculated metric, viewability may matter less than the overall performance of the buy; even if a portion of the ad impressions aren’t viewable, the cost efficiency and conversion impact of the media will likely be the driving force behind what metrics matter the most.
In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to viewability. The improvements and standardization in this area over the last few years are all helping to fuel the conversation, and the conversation and awareness of this issue is what matters most.
Truth in Advertising is a three-part series developed by Jenna Watson, DAC’s VP, Digital Media. She examines some of the most pressing concerns in digital advertising today and provides brands with strategies to safeguard their reputation and maximize their investment in digital advertising.
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