Viewability and viewability measurement are some of the most important issues in digital media today. There has been a lot of progress from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and cross-industry coalition initiative, Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS), on defining and standardizing measurement of viewability but adoption of this metric for transacting digital ads is still slow. Advertisers are still paying for ads out of view and attributing success to ads that were never seen. Broad adoption of viewability is essential for the successful future of digital advertising.
More than 5.3 trillion display ads are served to online users in the U.S. each year, according to a previously reported figure by comScore. Despite the growth in display ad impressions, a significant portion of those ads are unseen by online users. MRC certified DoubleVerify measured the average viewability for Q4 2013 as only 50.31 percent. This figure is four percent lower than the view rate observed in Q3. Even with the heightened awareness and focus on viewability in the industry, DoubleVerify still observed a decrease in view rates across all buying channels (RTB, Networks & Publisher Direct) for display advertising.
According to DoubleVerify, in Q4 RTB buying dipped from 48% viewable to 43%, networks from 55% to 51% and publisher direct from 64% to 58%. Perhaps the decline from Q3 to Q4 in percent viewable was due to increased demand and the need to full fill Q4 budgets, but shouldn't we be getting better viewability rates as an industry? I think so.
A recent case study, “Viewable Impressions Drive Brand Impact”, conducted by Millward Brown Digital, DoubleVerify and Adconion Direct sheds additional light on the topic of viewability, specifically as it relates to viewability’s impact on increasing purchase intent and ad awareness. Unsurprisingly, viewable ads significantly out-performed ads out of view, but the greatest insight of the study was the impact of time viewed on ad recall, and more importantly for the advertiser, purchase intent.
The case study found that ads in view for over 100 seconds had four times the brand recall and purchase intent compared to ads viewed in less time. Conceptually this makes sense, so why aren't more people focused on this metric for success? With viewability measurement technologies now widely available in the market, advertisers can now demand from their partners that they only pay for viewable impressions while also optimizing to time spent with an ad to drive the success of their campaign. Many advertisers still rely on clicks to measure success of their brand activity. Time spent can now replace click-through-rate as the proxy for performance of an ad for a branding campaign.
Proving the value of display advertising to advertisers will become increasingly difficult as more banners are served in the coming years and advertisers will be vying for the most impactful placements. The case study showed that viewable impressions doubled the likelihood that category purchasers would use the brand. This will undoubtedly convince advertisers that banners with in-view times of 100 seconds or more are well-worth the increased spend (1.8x more expensive) but four times more effective than non-viewable impressions.
With clear metrics for success in sight, advertisers and sellers can proactively work together to incorporate ad viewability and exposure into their media plans to meet brand objectives. Being able to transact on viewable impressions is what marketers want, and based on the MRC’s last advisory announcement a very near reality. The viewability opportunity is ours for the seizing, and the technology is there to help make it happen.