But for anyone who has ever visited a Web page, this viewability standard makes absolutely no sense. Even for takeover ads, I have become able to ignore the content completely, as my eyes jump straight to the X or whatever part of the page I have to click to get around the obstacle. Given typical human reaction times, by the time your DMP has captured my “impression,” I have not even had time to let out a puff of annoyance. When you consider more traditional display ads, especially in the page rails, this kind of viewability standard makes even less sense.
Recently, similar metrics have been proposed for videos, which in my opinion are equally laughable. Unless I am actively seeking a longer video, I find pre-rolls extremely annoying, and if it’s a common piece of news, I will frequently close out the offending window and go look for the content elsewhere. Even on my best, most alert day, it will take me at least two to three seconds before I realize what is happening and close that window. Ka-ching! Someone just made a buck on a “viewed” video.
What I find most perplexing about the apparent, collective mental freeze in the advertising ecosystem, is that the meaningfulness of viewability metrics can easily be tested. Cadres of graduate students have spent years in dark academic labs strapped to antiquated electronics equipment to measure their responses to stimuli even more mind-numbing than digital ads. In fact, there are several institutions that carry out all sorts of psychophysical tests specifically related to marketing and consumer behavior.
Why hasn’t the ANA or the IAB or the 4A’s or the WFA or some other illustrious body tried to do at least some sensible experimentation? For example, what is the typical reaction time of someone in response to a banner ad? A takeover ad? A video? Does our brain even react to an ad in one second? And what is the cognitive impact of only showing half of a banner ad? If I were back in academia, I could keep 100 grad students busy with these ideas.
From a superficial business perspective, I can see how the combination of fear and groupthink must quickly squash any such rebellious concept. But in the meantime, as the industry bemoans problems like click fraud, viewability and pricing transparency, we continue to dump tons of toxic waste upon the very readers that constitute the lifeblood of advertisers and publishers alike. The emperor has no clothes, and the empire is going up in flames.