Ad Viewability: Is It Important?

June 23, 2015 Emma Cullen

The term ad viewability has been gaining momentum in the ad tech industry thanks to reports from Google and IAB and a shift in the way that the industry views ad metrics. According to many, ad viewability, is changing the way that advertising inventory is bought and sold. However, what is it, and is it necessary for modern advertisers and marketers? With this article, explore some of the arguments around ad viewability and determine whether it is important for you.

What is Ad Viewability?

Viewability is the online advertising metric used to measure impressions that are visible on the screens of a user. Each of these impressions is called a ‘viewed impression’, differentiating from all impressions on a computer screen, in or out of view.
 
A viewable impression, according to the Media Rating Council is an ad with: “50% of their pixels are seen for a minimum of one second and for desktop video that standard is 50% for 2 seconds. Also, the rule stipulates that for larger desktop ad units, 30% of pixels in-view for 1 second constitutes a Viewable ad”. Therefore, if a web page loads which has an ad that is at the bottom of the screen, and the user never scrolls down, this impression would not be deemed as a viewable impression. Keep in mind that this is a new metric, and therefore definitions may change as viewability develops, particularly regarding special formats such as media-rich ads.

Benefits of Ad Viewability

Ad viewability holds some advantages for publishers and advertisers. For advertisers, they have access to more data to see which ads are appearing on users screens. Using viewability as a measurement means that optimization is easier when it comes to ad placement on a web page and ad size, two of the key factors of viewability.  Advertisers can also keep down costs by working with advertising platforms that only charge for viewable impressions, a trend that we will probably see in the future of networks.
 
For publishers, viewability is a useful measurement to see the value of their inventory. By understanding the types impressions that get the highest viewability rates, they can charge a premium, and sell off cheaply, or stop selling inventory with a low viewability rate. Viewability also gives publishers a chance to work more transparently and actively fight ad fraud.

Pitfalls of Viewability

However, ad viewability as a measurement in itself isn’t a very useful metric. While it measures if the ad has appeared on the screen, it doesn’t measure if someone has seen your ads or if any engagement has occurred on the ad. In short, 100% viewability doesn’t mean that 100% of people have looked at your ad. Further, viewability doesn’t measure if your ad is reaching your targeted audience. Meaning that by using ad viewability as the only metric your use to measure your campaign performance can lure you into a false sense of security of your campaigns.
 
We can determine that viewability is most useful when used with another measurement such as engagement. Heat maps or even more traditional measurements such as click-through rates and conversion rates to track and measure the engagement on your banner ads.
 
There are also arguments that even if impressions aren’t viewable they still provide valuable information in the form of collecting data about where online the display ads appear. Data such as this is particularly useful in retargeting campaigns as it means that you can see exactly the types of websites that those who have already visited your website go to afterwards. Thus, you can collect more data about your target audiences and see what journey they travel on during their buying journey.
 
Plus, as a developing metric, viewability has some problems that need to be solved before it becomes a more standard metric.

Is Viewability Important?

Therefore, we can determine that, yes, viewability is important but it isn’t the perfect display ad metric. Of course, it is ideal that your viewability is as close to 100% as possible, and there are ways that you can achieve this. By choosing reputable advertising networks and other publishing platforms as well as using software that tracks the viewability of your impressions you can improve viewability. However, it is important that in its current state viewability should ideally be used to compliment other metrics that will allow online marketers and advertisers to build a clear picture of their campaign performance.

Final Thoughts:  The Future of Viewability

Viewability will continue to be a core focus in the ad tech industry, and development of the metric will continue to develop. It is in the best interests of both the publishers and the publishing platforms to improve the measurement of viewability. But it is also important for advertisers to embrace a variety of different metrics to determine campaign success.
 
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