First, the good news. In the UK, viewability has risen from 53% in the second half of 2017 to 63% in 2018. Not only are ad campaigns delivering better viewability rates, but they are also remaining on the screen. Nearly half of all ads, at 46%, are now in view for longer than five seconds -- a leap from 36% in the previous half.
The star channels of the report for viewability are desktop video, at 64%, mobile web video at 69%, and mobile web display at 57%. For an industry that typically languished below the 50% mark, these latest figures must provide encouragement that marketers can be assured their ads stand a good chance of being deemed viewable. The fact that nearly half are viewable for 5 seconds or more will partly answer criticism that the official definition of viewability -- standing at one second for display and two for video -- sets a rather low benchmark.
IAS is attributing the improvement in the UK's media landscape to an all-around focus on better quality. This is clearly evident in the ad fraud levels in the report dropping to just 0.4% for mobile web campaigns optimised against fraud, compared to 7% for those that are not. It's a similar story in display, where the rate of fraud for optimised campaigns is just 0.7% compared to 10% for those which are not.
Again, this focus on quality is seen in brand-risk levels of just over 4% in desktop, down from nearly 6% in the previous half. However, although there is has been some improvement, mobile still leaves much to be desired, with a brand-risk rating of 9%. That makes the leap from mobile display to mobile video twice as risky. Curiously, programmatic video buying is proving to offer half the risk of publisher direct deals. Clearly, the ad tech would appear to be working, so there may be better days ahead.
So what are we to make of a bunch of figures that can have you feeling "number blind" after a few minutes?
Well, display is doing far better than before, with viewability up, and the time an ad is viewable for is increasing too. Use the right technology and fraud is virtually forgettable at 1% or less, depending on the channel.
Mobile video is still where the risk lies to brand managers, however, with 9% of mobile web video ads ending up in places that could compromise a brand's good name. It's mainly drugs and violence that are the big culprits here, not so much the extremism everyone's attention been turned to since The Times carried out a series of investigations into YouTube.
Halfway through the year and viewability and fraud are looking good, but mobile video's report card would show it still has much work to do to replicate desktop, which is currently looking at least twice as safe as its smaller-screen cousin.