Commentary

Viewability Isn't Enough - Relevant-Time Marketing, Native Placement And User Allure Are The Key

In 2013, unviewable ads and the wider issue of viewability were major talking points for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) -- and are still all the rage, quite literally, for some marketers who have been paying for ads that aren’t ever seen. And with the Media Rating Council (MRC) finalizing its standardization of the viewable impression as the new digital advertising metric, this will continue to dominate the conversation.

Currently, almost half of all online ads (46%, per comScore) are never seen by Web site visitors, and even fewer at many lower-tier sites. This is good news for the industry overall: soon enough, the viewable impression metric will be widely adopted and marketers simply won’t pay for ads that aren’t proven to be viewable.

However, while the MRC’s standardization is a huge leap forward, it doesn’t set a high benchmark for success. Under its criteria, an ad counts as “viewed” if half of its pixels are in view for at least a second.

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This leads to the bigger question: is viewability enough?

I believe viewability to be just a precursor to the larger picture of engagement. It’s one thing to have an ad seen, but it’s far more important to have it actually engaged with and the brand to have a qualified connection with a consumer. Technology intelligence and analytics company Moat agrees. Says Jonah Goodhart, CEO and co-founder: "Viewability is a good first step, but we have to do more. Simply confirming that an ad bought in digital has the chance to be seen is one thing, but getting that ad in front of an engaged consumer who is ready to pay attention is where we need to go."

ComScore data also supports the idea of engagement driving results. They found that when users interact with ads -- be it hovering over or clicking to launch the content, playing a video or scrolling through images -- brands achieve conversion rates of 0.49%. By comparison, the conversion rate measured on the basis of gross impressions was just 0.17%, barely a third as likely to result in a sale.

While the industry grapples with this, there are five foolproof steps for advertisers to ensure their messages are not only viewable but are really engaged with:

1. Relevant-time Marketing: These days, consumers’ needs and attention dynamically change in the time it takes to read this sentence. And as more ad messages are being placed programmatically, it’s even more important that they are not only in real-time but in relevant time. Thankfully, with today’s technology, content can be analyzed immediately in order to ensure maximum ad relevancy. Being able to align a brand’s ad with relevant editorial content on the latest topic guarantees a more “relevant in time” advertising moment.

2. Native Ad Placement: The lines are blurring between paid, earned and owned media. Users don’t really care where the content comes from as long as it’s relevant, timely and honest. This will cause some issues about who gets credit (and thus, payment) for a campaign, but it’s the new reality. Brand experiences that launch from within premium editorial content, for instance, work most effectively. This not only tackles the Viewability issue, but creates a more trusted, natural environment for advertisements that leads to higher responses from consumers.

3. Transparency: Allow users to decide whether they want to interact with your ad content. Make it clear it’s an ad -- you’ll create annoyance or even animosity if users feel they have been “tricked” into viewing an ad -- and give them the choice over whether or not to engage. This inherently ensures that those who do click or swipe are open to your message, have a much higher likelihood of paying attention and are the right target for your brand. Our research shows that 81% of users appreciate ads they control -- and when they initiate the content, there’s a 56% lift in consideration.

4. Allure: Be entertaining and/or informative enough that users will want to share your content with their friends and colleagues. You have a very brief moment to make an impact on users. Tell your brand story through vivid, enticing content. Throughout the creation and execution phase, make sure to put yourself in their shoes and ask “Why should I care?” “Would I want to share this with MY friends?”

5. Mobile: Make sure your content works across devices. This sounds obvious, but far too many brands are skipping this crucial step. You could have a winning idea but if it doesn’t translate from desktop to the mobile or tablet screen, its genius is lost on the audience and the reach is just confined to desktop users from 9 till 6.

Viewability is a great place to start -- the cost of entry for advertisers. Our collective goal as an industry should now be to crack the code on engagement that drives consumer connection and brand loyalty by delivering the right content to the right audience at the right time.

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