Is Viewability Actually A Useful Metric?

As ad campaigns increasingly optimize for viewability, is there a reason to think twice about the appropriateness of focusing on that metric?

Yes, there is — according to a new study on viewability conducted by InSkin Media, Research Now and Sticky.

The study, released this past Friday, found that 25% of ads considered viewable by industry standards -- 50% of pixels on screen for at least one second -- are never looked at. A third of these ads have a gaze time of under one second, with just 42% looked at for at least a second.

The overall median time that a viewable ad is looked at is about 0.7 seconds, as measured by eye-tracking technology developed by Sticky.

The study found that in order to ensure gaze times over one second, an ad needs to be on the screen for at least 26 seconds. The ad needs to be on screen for 33 second to hit over two seconds of gaze time, and 44 second to reach over four seconds of appreciation.

Jean Templin, VP of product for Sticky, weighed in on the report by email. “I think the industry is already moving away from trusting viewability as a complete metric,” she said. “Viewability doesn't tell brands if people are actually engaging with their ads, only that it has loaded on the page. While this is a starting indicator that an ad has been seen, it doesn't tell the whole story.”



Templin also put forward a new metric that marketers should focused on instead: “Advertisers should be measuring whether or not their content is actually seen by consumers, not just viewable based on industry standards. By doing so, advertisers will have a much better understanding of how their ads are resonating. We're calling this new metric SeenPM.”

Nevertheless, viewability is still a usable metric, according to Templin.  “Brands should approach viewability as a first step in ensuring their content is appearing on the page, and then look for better metrics to determine if their content is actually resonating with consumers.”

6 comments about "Is Viewability Actually A Useful Metric?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 6, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.

    Absolutely right, however, as noted, viewability is a completely neccessary first step as you can't have ad impact if the ad---the complete ad---can't be seen. As to how one determines whether the ad was looked at/read and what effect this had on the comsumer, you simply can't rely singlemindedly on electronic indicators like CTRs. You must find a way to evaluate ads based on human responses--like ad awareness/recall and attitude-shift, brand preference, intent-to-buy, etc.. Going the direct response route may work for direct response advertisers but it is simply not enough for branding ad campaigns.

  2. Jeff Ferguson from Amplitude Digital, October 6, 2016 at 1:57 p.m.

    As usual, what happened when a new metric appeared, people overdid it with its usefulness and thought of it as a full-blown KPI rather than the diagnostic metric that it was designed to be.

    Viewability should only ever be looked at as one of the reasons for poor performance in actual KPIs (i.e. sales, leads, on-site engagement, etc.) - "Hey, sales dropped, what changed? Oh, viewability took a dive, let's call the pub!"

    I can recall attending conferences where big CPG brands were insisting on viewability minimums and just shaking my head.  KPIs don't change just because new diagnostic metrics are introduced - period.

  3. Cosmin Bardan from MediaRadar, October 6, 2016 at 4:56 p.m.

    Where can I find more information on this new metric (SeenPM) and what attributes it takes in consideration? Thank you!

  4. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, October 6, 2016 at 6:07 p.m.

    Meaningful viewavility should be table stakes. The conversation now should focus on meaningful. 

  5. Benny Radjasa from Armonix Digital, Inc., October 7, 2016 at 10:42 a.m.

    Pricing needs to be baked in for a certain level of viewability, do expect 100% viewability commands a uber premium.  Pricing will eventually balance out supply and demand.  TV has their stats all baked in if people are away from the screen, its sold with the understanding all these has been accounted for statistically.  Let say, for example if 100% Viewable impressions are sold at $10, and another sets of publisher impressions are averaging out to 50% Viewable impressions are sold at $3 CPM, then I can make a case that for the sake of efficiency, it’s better not to buy 100% Viewable impressions.   Also check out this article on this same exact point:

  6. Steve Rudnick from Sticky replied, October 11, 2016 at 11:37 a.m.

    The SEEN metric is based on eye-tracking data from the percentage of viewers that saw the elements, how long they looked at it, and how quickly it was found. Marin, happy to connect with you more over email:

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