While measuring whether an ad is in view is certainly critical, as an industry we need to avoid turning viewability into the next click-through rate. We need to all understand that, like a click, an ad that is confirmed to be in the viewing window of a user's screen is just a rough proxy for success. In fact, it is just the starting point. Having your ad in view will be "table stakes" in the near future. So don't fall into the trap of basing all decisions purely on viewability rate, because if you do, you will be very disappointed.
All Views Are Not Equal
If you optimize your media buy only around this new metric, you will be dissatisfied by your results. It turns out contextual categories such as adult content and gaming have some of the highest viewability rates on the planet! Furthermore, similar to the way click-through rates were artificially increased through road-blocks and pop-up ads, many sites are now being designed to maximize viewability above everything else. From ads that annoyingly follow readers around the page to websites that maximize the number of ads in view at the same time, we are about to embark upon a new era where only viewable ads will get credit. As a result of this, there will be numerous ways to "game" viewability measurement as a standalone metric.
A Singular Focus on Viewability Is An Open Invite For Fraud
The unsavory element in the industry has already taken gaming the system to another level. Similar to the way pay for clicks and the obsession with click-through rates spawned click fraud, the industry's new focus on viewability has opened the door for a different type of fraud: viewable impression fraud. And it’s thriving, because bots view ads a lot more frequently than humans do. This illicit behavior is harder to detect than click-rate fraud, as there is more of it and the source is widespread. Fraudulent bots can go anywhere, and it takes cutting-edge science to adequately detect and prevent them.
Marrying Quality And Viewability
So what’s next? An ad in view will become table stakes. The industry's conversation will quickly move to focusing on quality ad exposures. Measurement and targeting technologies will need to account for quantifiable quality metrics associated with every view. Without this distinction, the media buyer will be thoroughly gamed or end up purchasing highly viewed media that is very low quality or even unsafe. Quality encompasses many mission critical aspects of media beyond viewability, including the size of the ad relative to the viewing window, the share of view or number of other images in view at the same time, and the relevance and nature of the content where the ad appears.
Nowhere is the distinction between a viewable ad and a quality viewable ad more important than with video. Video ads tell a story and there are many additional factors that are important in understanding ad effectiveness such as video ad completion percentage, auto play, and size of the video player. As the complexity increases, so do the ways to game viewability measurement. And with higher CPMs, the stakes and thus rewards are greater.
Understanding the quality of a video ad beyond just whether it was viewable is going to be essential for anyone buying media in the near future. Start looking at these expanded metrics now to get ahead of the gamers.