Commentary

Aiming For 70% Viewability: It's Not Glamorous, But It's A Reliable Stepping Stone

Last year, the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) suggested that marketers aim for 70% viewability on campaigns in 2015. The 4As didn’t like that, saying 70% wasn’t good enough for them and that the industry should aim higher.

Turns out 70% really might be a reliable stepping stone.

Sizmek, an ad management firm and MRC-accredited viewability measurement vendor, this week released new data analyzing viewability trends around 240 billion ad impressions from 2014. Sizmek says it tracked over 120,000 campaigns across 74 countries that spanned 22,000 publishers and 43 programmatic partners for the research.

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“After analyzing the data, Sizmek Research found the IAB’s 70% threshold to be a reliable indicator of performance,” wrote Sizmek in its report. “Click-through and interaction rates for ads with measured impressions at an average viewable threshold of 70% or more are significantly higher than ads with a viewable threshold of less than 70%.”

For standard flash banner campaigns in which at least 70% of the ads were viewable, click-through rates were three times higher than those that were viewable less than 70% (0.28% versus 0.09%), per Sizmek. For HTML5 standard banners, Sizmek saw a similar ratio (three times greater for campaings that met the 70% threshold), though the HTML5 banners saw a click-through rate of 0.41%.

For flash rich media, click-through rates were two times higher (0.37% versus 0.18%) for campaigns that met the 70% threshold, and for HTML5 rich media the click-through rates were four times greater (0.61% versus 0.16%).

Sizmek also broke down the impressions based on how they were served. The company found that ads served direct to publishers typically had higher viewability rates than ads served via programmatic.

“[W]e found that serving ads direct to publishers increased average viewable rates worldwide,” wrote Sizmek. “This was most pronounced in North America, where serving flash rich media direct to publishers resulted in a 22-point jump in viewable rates, while HTML5 rich media jumped 15 percentage points.” Standard flash banners were roughly 6% more viewable when served direct to publishers.

This wasn’t true across all ad formats, however. In fact, HTML5 standard banners performed slightly better on the viewability front (half a percentage point) when served via programmatic, compared to direct with publishers.

The MRC’s viewability standard of 50% of an ad being in-view for at least one continuous second remains far too low a threshold, but Sizmek’s research does support the notion that marketers should aim for at least 70% of their ads being in-view as a stepping stone in 2015.

“The specifics and definitions will no doubt continue to be debated, but the recent efforts at standardizing viewability terminology move the industry toward a more transparent marketplace for digital ads, and our research backs that up,” stated Alex White, VP of product strategy at Sizmek. “Clearly, measuring whether an ad is viewable gives the industry a starting point for trading in true engagement.”

At the same time, are we really going to call click-through rates that are lower than 0.50% a win? It really stretches the definition of “win” -- I’d rather call it being less bad, but that doesn’t sound as nice.

With the other option being click-through rates of 0.15%, however, we can at least call achieving average viewability rates of 70% a “relative win.”

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