Viewable impressions, display ad impressions actually in-view to the user, are a hot topic that continues to gain steam in the digital advertising industry. The Making Measurement Make Sense(3MS) initiative, a coordinated effort by the IAB, 4A's, the ANA and others recently engaged the Media Rating Council (MRC) for certification. I won’t get into the timeline or details, all of that is available on MeasurementNow.net, but the most important and talked about point is the intention to shift digital measurement from a "served" to a "viewable" impression standard. Viewability is based on the MRC/3MS recommended definition of at least 50% of pixels in-view for one second.
As we delved into internal data on viewability, we uncovered new insights about campaign performance. Metrics from impressions that never had a chance to be seen by a consumer were dragging down overall performance; by eliminating extraneous impressions, we saw performance increase dramatically.
In a preliminary analysis of approximately 7.4 billion rich media impressions recorded worldwide during September 2012, we quantified the connection between campaigns with a higher aggregate viewable rate and higher engagement metrics. Worldwide, click-through rates (CTR) of viewable impressions based on the proposed 3MS standard were 0.34% compared to 0.22% for all rich media, a lift of 54.5%.
To get a better sense of the impact of viewability, we aggregated the campaigns and bucketed them based on the share of impressions that were viewable according to the MRC/3MS recommended standard. The data shows that as the viewable rate of campaigns increased, both CTR and the post-click conversion rate rose as well. Again, after cutting the unseen impressions, the display campaigns were more engaging and resulted in a higher conversion rate – clearly a result of the new viewability attribute.
The true value of viewable impressions may not be in the metrics themselves, but more so in the improvements in advertising inventory that it spurs as publishers adjust their site lay-outs in response to the new standards. Many publishers already redesigned their websites to maximize viewable impressions, such as NBCNews.com, formerly MSNBC. In a recent article on AdAge's website, NBCUniversal EVP and IAB Chair Peter Naylor said that NBCUniversal redesigned their website to maximize viewable impressions in 2010. While they saw an initial reduction in display inventory, engagement increased nearly 2.5-times pre-viewable impression levels. Other publishers are following suit, as Gannett’s USAToday.com launched a redesign in mid-September.
One thing is certain: The display advertising industry is moving towards viewable impressions. As it does, advertisers are demanding innovative solutions. Smart vendors – ad servers, third-party trackers, and publishers alike – are going to meet that demand.