Because, seriously, “your ad is now viewable” doesn’t sound any different than a hamburger meat company saying, “Now with real beef!” If you heard that, then you’d be thinking, well, what the heck was I eating before? And when this purveyor of burger meat is telling me that it’s “real,” then how much is actually real? What if it’s only 1% real beef? That’s the kind of analogy we’re dealing with when it comes to viewability.
So here’s what I propose: Don’t make a big deal about your ads being viewable. Make a big deal about your ads being viewed. Just like you’d make a big deal about that hamburger you ate being high-quality, well-prepared, and of course, delicious.
It’s great that the industry is talking about viewability, because it certainly was -- and continues to be -- a huge problem that we had such a poor definition of “impressions” and were packaging so many useless metrics until they looked like something good.
Except that defining things as “viewable” creates a binary that is equally deceiving. And this is the next fallacy that we risk as an industry. Saying that an ad is “viewable” shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all in terms of our decision-making. In reality, “viewable” is the proxy, and it should open up a whole host of questions just like being told that the hamburger you’re about to eat is made with “real beef.” How much real beef? How do you define “real?” And, well, does it taste good?
We’ve defined a proxy, but not a standard. And talking about our ads being actually viewed is that next dialogue we need to have now that we’ve made the important step of acknowledging that we needed to talk about viewability. Because viewable can lead to viewed, but it doesn’t necessarily do so. (Especially, since, as many of us know, fraudulent views generated by bots are still classified as “viewable.”)
If we’re focusing on viewed rather than viewable, there are a couple of things that we’ll be forced to start addressing that we aren’t sufficiently addressing yet -- like the epidemic of ad blockers and the fact that so many online ads just suck, frankly. Getting into this frame of thinking will only do good things for us.
Let’s talk about food again. Many of us have gotten really inquisitive about the content of our food in recent years -- was that grass-fed? Is it organic? What’s exactly in this? That’s one of the reasons why, in recent years, we’ve started to see food-related companies both large and small, doubling down on a commitment to tell us exactly what we’re eating, what’s in it, and where it came from. What we eat is a kind of storytelling -- just like advertising. Consumers are demanding accountability in food, and I’d love to see that kind of scrutiny expand into the business world. It’s about time we saw accountability in ads as well.