Networks Won't Talk About 'Viewability' Because High Percentage Of Commercials Aren't Viewed

A Google study of its display advertising platforms revealed that 56.1% of impressions were not seen; the average publisher's viewability rate came in at 50.2%

TV advertisers would have a fit if networks revealed similar data. Digital advertising is a bit more complicated than TV advertising. A publisher’s site can have lots of different ad sellers; TV networks traditionally don’t use third-party sellers for national sales.

Google found that much of its results had to do with placement -- the most viewable position was right above the fold, not at the top of the page.

TV marketers might roughly equate the top of the page to the “A” position -- the first ad to be aired -- in a commercial pod. The “A” position, according to many, garners higher awareness and brand recall than other positions.

But TV does have weak points, especially with fast-forwarding through commercials during time-shifted viewing.  That’s not a viewer behavior that anyone really wants to talk about.



Some research points out that up to 75% of commercials are fast-forwarded through DVR units. Some TV-supporting executives point to data saying the number is more like 55% -- which is just like Google’s number.

What is also discussed with digital ads is a word no one wants to hear: fraud.

Good news for TV efforts down the road: Google’s analysis that “content that holds a user's attention has the highest viewability rating.”

TV execs would claim that is something TV still has going for it in a big way.

8 comments about "Networks Won't Talk About 'Viewability' Because High Percentage Of Commercials Aren't Viewed ".
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  1. Rick Mandler from ABC, December 9, 2014 at 4:09 p.m.

    Hello!!! Fast forwarded commercials are not included in C3! Nobody talks about it because nobody is paying for it. I am sorry but this is basic media 101 stuff, and a column in Media Post shouldn't get it wrong.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 9, 2014 at 4:23 p.m.

    At last, somebody from "legacy media" speaks up. Quite right, Rick. Unlike digital, whose CPMs are based on viewable plus unviewable ad "exposures", nobody pays for people who zap TV commercials on their DVRs because zappers are deleted from the ratings.

  3. Doug Pulick from National CineMedia, December 9, 2014 at 4:37 p.m.

    Maybe Cinema is the answer for effective advertiser exposure? The unique environment of having one of the largest captivated audiences seated in front of a 40’ screen with virtually no distractions makes Cinema a hard choice to beat, especially on weekends.

  4. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 10, 2014 at 1:54 p.m.

    The pot calling the kettle black. Last two decades, linear TV has been selling smaller audiences for greater $$$ and the incremental reach is very expensive. The $$$billion dollar questions for Rick Mandler is the downward to flat viewing secular or cyclical and where is that inflection point?

  5. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, December 10, 2014 at 1:54 p.m.

    and some research says this is a fallacious. Feh

  6. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 10, 2014 at 2:07 p.m.

    Steve may not be referring to C3 but rather the commercial break as a signal to attend to matters of the bathroom and fridge.

  7. John Grono from GAP Research, December 10, 2014 at 3:42 p.m.

    Leonard. Yes people do attend to 'matters of the bathroom and fridge'. Always have and always will. The thing is that zappers zap virtually every break. 'Bathroom and fridge' is not every break. Around 10 years ago I analysed a week's viewing in our Sydney TV panel. The average drop during ad-breaks (switchers, caffeine addicts, and nature calls) averaged 4.5%.

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 10, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.

    As John points out, leaving the room for any reason is not an every break activity. An average person "watches" about five hours of TV daily, including 25 or more commercial breaks. Obviously, the average "viewer" doesn't get up and leave the TV room 25 times a day. The problem we have is that Nielsen doesn't know whether the people it "counts" as "commercial minute viewers" actually are in the room or not and, more importantly, whether those who stay in the room are attentive, engage in other activities or simply have tuned out mentally. Still, the evidence that a fair amount of "viewers" are engaged by commercials is overwhelming. As I noted in another post, commercial recall studies are the best evidence of this. You can't come up with normative recall scores of 30-45%---depending on the methodology---with highs of 45-60%---if nobody watched commercials. In "TV Dimensions", we estimate that approximately 55-60% of the reported commercial minute audience actually sees all or part of an average commercial. Of course there are variations. Load a break with 10-12 messages, plus promos, and attentiveness as well as dial switching avoidance goes through the roof. But that tends to be the exception, rather than the rule.

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