On the positive side, if the industry fully accepts viewability, this will drive CPMs higher than they’ve been in many years, as well as increase the performance of general online advertising.
Viewability parameters reduce the volume of ads that can be served while reducing the amount of fraud, thus decreasing supply while demand maintains strong. It also means that when people do engage with ads, the percentage will be higher because of the opportunity to do so is based on a smaller universe. When performance is strong and supply decreases while demand is static, prices rise.
The counterweight to this situation is that you have to determine whether the volume of ad impressions flowing through the exchanges will decrease in proportion to the increase in pricing for viewable ad impressions. Or will the drop in volume outweigh the increase in price, resulting in an overall decrease in revenue for the impression side of the business?
This analysis is one of the things that makes the industry hesitate to adopt viewability too quickly. No one wants to see a drop in growth rate as the industry crosses the $50 billion threshold.
In another consideration, viewability measurement itself needs to improve. There are many tools employed by less-than-reputable marketers who trick viewability metrics. Having ghost windows with invisible ads are just as prevalent apparently as bot traffic, and in many cases these can trick existing viewability measurement tools into thinking an ad was actually seen by a consumer.
Estimates of this kind of traffic vary widely, representing anywhere from 35%-65% of total Web impressions. Regardless of the exact numbers, this will have an impact on the bottom line. The technology still needs to catch up, even if where we are now is dramatically better than where we were just two years ago.
The other thing to factor in is the rising wave of ad blocking. I’ve written that ad blocking can be viewed as a good thing because it will force creative to improve and become more engaging. I still stand by this statement, but this does assume that people will see our ads!
I love advertising, I always have, but when you take a look at the total number of impressions served online and you remove bots, you remove fraud, you measure viewability and you factor in ad blocking, the numbers start to decrease to a level that actually scares me a bit.
Marketing is not going anywhere, but advertising becomes threatened very quickly. This should be a wake-up call for anyone in advertising that we need to revisit what makes advertising work and find out how to convey our efforts to the populace that we target. They need to know we take this business seriously and that we are looking for ways to improve.
Maybe if we can work toward the common goal of improving the ad industry as a whole, and letting consumers know this is where we’re headed, they will trust us enough to give us the benefit of the doubt.
What are your thoughts on viewability?