To put it bluntly, when the researchers take a look at annual display spend, as per IAB UK figure, the result is viewability is costing digital advertisers some GBP700m per year in unseen inventory.
If you're looking for a culprit, it's hard not to blame an increasingly automated buying process, most notably programmatic. That's certainly where Meetrics, the viewability measurement company behind the figures is laying the blame. Nevertheless, in EU markets where programmatic is at a lower rate of adoption, viewability still only manage to climb above the UK's rate of 47% to hit 60% in Germany and 62% in France. Interestingly, Austria is held up as the the market with the most viewable ads but even there, an advertiser only has a two in three chance of their message being seen. It's obviously better than the UK's figure, which is slightly worse that an 50:50 coin toss, but it's coming to something when a two in three success rate is the best it gets.
Meetrics not only blames programmatic but also the practice of ad units being refreshed or reloaded constantly to maximise inventory. This accounts for a fifth of all display being unviewable. This, the analytics company points out, is a massive spike brought about by publishers seeking to get the most out of a page via programmatic.
it's a sobering thought to remind oneself that to be viewable an advert only needs to have half of its pixels viewable for a second. Even with the bar set this low, less than half of UK digital display makes the grade. It's encouraging, then, to see The Telegraph unveiling a new ad format that will not count an advert as viewable until it has been on screen for 10 seconds.
The whole issue obviously raises the need for brands and their agencies to use viewability tools which inform clients, media buyer, ad networks and platforms, as well as publishers, how much of a campaign has been capable of being seen. Without it, brands will never know how much media they deserve to be recredited with so they can reach a campaign's objective.
The problem, of course, with unviewable ads isn't just the potential to waste budget but also to not get a brand's message out there. If only half a campaign's display is ever viewable, it's fair to say the awareness the messages were intended to drive will be halved. The tragedy is, unless viewability is properly tested, a marketer will have no way of knowing if poor end results were down to low awareness brought about by only half their ad units ever being seen.
The era of automated digital marketing is hugely exciting but it's problematic as well as programmatic. Just look at the figures and it's hard to suggest otherwise.