Publishers Should Start Paying Attention To Viewability

  • by November 23, 2015

The debate around viewability has reached a fever pitch, and nowhere is this more apparent than online video. The importance of viewability— whether an ad is within view of the user when it is playing, and for how long—is not a point of contention.

It makes sense that advertisers should only pay for ads actually seen by users, as opposed to simply served.

However, on the heels of a recent IAB report that found that approximately $18.5 billion will be lost due to ad fraud this year—or in other words, for every $3 of digital advertising spend, $1 will be lost to fraud—the disconnect between the buy-side and sell-side grows more pronounced with no clear industry standard in place to define what qualifies an ad as viewable.

The most widely accepted standard for viewability was established by the Media Ratings Council (MRC) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). As far as the MRC and the IAB are concerned, a video ad is deemed viewable if 50% of its pixels appear on-screen for at least two consecutive seconds.

According to an eMarketer survey of both U.S. digital media buyers and suppliers, 78% of buyers do not think the Media Rating Council (MRC) standard for display viewability is strict enough, while 61% of suppliers feel that the MRC standard is sufficient.

The demand for viewability is especially important in relation to video, because of the high prices video ad inventory continues to command in comparison to other digital ad formats. However, in April of this year, Google released finding that only 54% of video ads across the Web are viewable.

In other words, one in two video ads served are never seen because they’re in background tabs, never on screen to begin with, scrolled off-screen, abandoned in less than two seconds or come from fraudulent traffic sources. Looked at in this light, it’s clear as to why viewability has become such a hot button issue for marketers—and it is time for publishers to start paying attention or suffer the consequences.

Some major publishers have already discovered that simply telling marketers their ads are viewable is no longer enough. Major brands like Kellogg and Kraft Foods scaled back on budgets with publishers that wouldn’t allow for third-party viewability verification, including YouTube and Facebook.

It is in publishers’ best interests not only pay attention to viewability, but to embrace viewability. Engaging in best practices for viewability often leads to better end user experiences on Web sites. Furthermore, as we see in the cases of Kellogg and Kraft Foods, premium advertisers require certain standards of viewability.

So, what can video publishers and advertisers do to enhance viewable ads?

First, player size matters. As logic would suggest, larger player sizes are more viewable. Similarly, location on a Web site also affects viewability. Video ads centered at the top of the page are most viewable, and viewability decreases as players move to the left or right of the page, or lower on the page.

And while this may seem obvious, most imperative is that publishers get on board with making viewability a priority. In order for the online advertising industry to evolve, publishers and advertisers alike must commit to a quality marketplace, one in which quality advertisers are paying for actual, human views.

As Vivek Shah, CEO of Ziff Davis and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), stated at the IAB’s 2014 annual leadership conference regarding the issues of viewability and ad fraud:

“If you’re an established publisher, and you’re blissfully unaware of all your traffic sources, then I ask you … to sit down with your team to ensure that you’re not buying suspect traffic. There’s nothing more detrimental to our business than having an established publisher implicated in this mess.”

This is especially important for video—online video ads are one of the fastest growing ad mediums and show no signs of slowing down. According to Business Insider Intelligence, online video ad revenue will reach nearly $5 billion in 2016, up from $2.8 billion in 2013, while TV ad revenue will decline by 3% per year over the same time frame.

The market will continue to grow as video ads become a feasible medium for mid-sized players in the space.

When viewability is a priority for both advertisers and publishers, the end result is a better overall user experience.


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