Viewability is one of the most important issues facing the digital advertising space today. In a recent survey by the World Advertising Research Center (WARC), it was found to be the No. 1 concern among marketers heading into 2018, with 49 percent of brands citing it as a major concern — and for good reason! Recent studies have shown that less than half of all desktop display impressions have an opportunity to be seen, and the numbers are even lower for mobile and video ads.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council (MRC) qualify a display ad impression as viewable if 50 percent or more of the ad’s pixels appear in the viewable space of an in-focus browser tab for at least one second post-ad render. This definition could change, as the MRC is considering changing the definition to include 100 percent of the pixels in-view instead of 50 percent, and is now applying additional duration standards, as well. For more information, see MRC’s Digital Audience-Based Measurement Standards: A Guide for Marketing and Media Professionals, released in December 2017. Viewability can have major implications for the efficacy of digital campaigns.
How viewability can affect the bottom line
Higher viewability is correlated with higher CTRs, and a recent DataXu study found that a 10-percent increase in viewability corresponded to a 100-percent increase in CTR. As such, more viewable impressions will almost guarantee you more clicks to your website. Highly viewable inventory does tend to clear at higher CPMs, so it is important to look at your viewable-CPM (vCPM) and the volume of viewable impressions delivered rather than viewability rates on their own. Let’s take a look at how viewability optimization can translate to real results for a hypothetical advertiser.
|Scenario One||Scenario Two|
The advertiser who achieved 70-percent viewability paid a higher CPM and got less total impressions, but garnered 12 percent more viewable impressions, resulting in a 67-percent higher CTR, 33 percent more clicks and a 25-percent lower CPC compared to the advertiser with 50-percent viewability. With a consistent back-end conversion rate, higher viewability led to a 25-percent lower cost-per-acquisition. Whether the goal is to drive conversions or heighten awareness and ad recall, advertisers who embrace viewability measurement are sure to achieve better results.
Emerging trends in 2018
While viewability standards are progressing, the space is evolving to address new ad types and environments. In 2017, the IAB Tech Lab acquired the Open Measurement SDK, a software development kit that will help standardize viewability measurement in the mobile space. This open source platform will help publishers avoid “SDK bloat” — the burden of incorporating multiple SDKs from different vendors, which can cause instability or slow loading times in mobile apps — and help ensure consistency in mobile viewability measurement. In the programmatic space, pre-bid technology built directly into DSPs is allowing advertisers to proactively avoid unviewable inventory rather than just monitoring retroactively.
Since Google’s Active View received MRC accreditation in 2017, agencies using DoubleClick as their primary ad server have been able to track viewability for standard ads with no additional cost or the need for a separate third-party vendor. Viewability averages vary greatly among different ad sizes — 300 x 600 ads boast the highest viewability, while 300 x 250s and 728 x 90s tend to have the lowest, so it is important to produce a variety of ad units to maximize viewability. On Facebook, which has limited compatibility with third-party ad servers like DoubleClick, advertisers have the option to verify viewability with third parties including Moat, IAS, comScore and Nielsen.
Navigating the available measurement options
Fortunately, advanced measurement tools are now more accessible than ever, so be sure to select an MRC-accredited vendor to monitor your campaigns. The following companies are MRC-accredited for viewability measurement:
Make sure that your selected measurement partner’s products and services are accredited for your particular media types. For instance, RealVu is accredited for mobile web, but not mobile in-app. Take a look at the full list of MRC-accredited vendors by ad type. With all these options available, advertisers should, at the very least, be monitoring the viewability of their display and social campaigns, if not paying only for viewable impressions. Viewable impressions will likely become the default transactional metric sooner rather than later, making it more akin to other media types. After all, if an ad can’t be seen, can it really make an impression?