Advertisers Are Right -- They Really Are Wasting Half Their Money On Spray And Pray Display

It's the oldest cliché in the book, but the latest figures from Meetrics shows that advertisers really could be wasting half their money. The viewability expert's latest research suggests that in the fourth quarter of 2015, only half of digital display in the UK is viewable. Put another way, half is not. Put in an even more straightforward manner, half of the display that brands pay for does not meet the criteria of just half of its pixels being on the screen for a second.

The UK is much worse than its EU counterparts. In Germany, 58% of ads are deemed viewable and in France the proportion rises to 65%. It's a good point to get one thing clear. Nobody is suggesting this has anything to do with ad fraud. The research measures each type of ad unit and while billboard and half-page ads do better than the 50% viewable average, MPU and leaderboards placed at the bottom of the page scores 47% and 43%, respectively. So it appears to be a simple case that the units are placed below the fold where they cannot be seen.

This brings up the murky issue of rebates. Meetrics is unequivocal here. Its belief is that most advertisers and their agencies are not claiming rebates to ensure they only pay for viewable ads. If that's the case, then that's an awful lot of unviewable ads leading to a massive amount of wasted budget. In fact, the research claims that in the UK alone, £134m was wasted on unviewable media in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone.

That's getting to the point where it could mount up to several hundred million pounds in a year, at the current rate of viewability getting worse rather than better. Here the researchers believe there are two options. Either the industry's attempts to improve viewability are failing, or they could be working in part -- but being overrun by the mass adoption of automated advertising. The latter explanation could explain why the UK is faring worse than its French and German neighbours and is probably more accurate than any underhand attempts not to deal with the problem.

So,if you can guarantee you're buying space that's more likely to be in the top half of a page, viewability will be improved. That's a no-brainer. Even then, though, a third will still be unviewable.

As automation opens up the prospect of even more of a spray-and-pray attitude to display, digital marketers really need to take note of the potential downside of relying on machines to book space across online and the mobile Web. It's not just a case of the money, although you obviously need to be assured that you are only being charged for viewable ads. The problem is that if you're putting budget in to a campaign, you don't really want to get half your money back in a month or two's time. What you really want is for the campaign to be seen and awareness grown so a launch is successful and you're not left wondering why things are so quiet, despite a huge display campaign having just kicked off.

This may be a good point to mention that the researchers did not factor in ad fraud. So even when there is a human there to serve ads to on a real site, only half of those despatched to capture their attention stand a chance of being seen. One can only imagine how the figure will go down even further if ad fraud were thrown into the mix. Pretty depressing reading, no?

3 comments about "Advertisers Are Right -- They Really Are Wasting Half Their Money On Spray And Pray Display".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Martin Pavey from Flashtalking, February 8, 2016 at 7:08 a.m.

    Viewability for trading is one thing but what about whether ads awarded post-view conversions under the typical last touch attribution model were viewable? This is potentially where the real benefit of viewability comes - being able to see whether ads in a conversion pathway are visible allows advertisers to move beyond simplistic post-view/last-click credit and have cleaner data to use in fractional attribution to reveal the true value each online media channel and partner is contributing. This would go a long way to combatting the inefficiencies in online.

  2. jessyka polensky from Integral Ad Science, February 10, 2016 at 3:54 p.m.

    Martin, sounds like you're asking for options like Integral Ad Science's "Quality Engine", which lets marketers inject Viewability data into their very own attribution models, or Causal Impact, which shows advertisers the causality between the viewability of their ads per publisher and placement and the effects viewable ads have on their clients' actions (clicks, leads, conversions).

  3. Martin Pavey from Flashtalking, February 17, 2016 at 11:06 a.m.

    Thanks Jessyka. I was trying not to be salesy but.. Flashtalking provides viewability at the impression level in our ad server data - the best place to have it for attribution.

Next story loading loading..