Why Ad Viewability Isn’t Good Enough

Reposted from my employers blog
Viewability is the measurement of whether or not an online ad had the ability to be seen; the metric is measured by detecting that over 50% of the ads pixels were on the screen for a least 1 second. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) have published the standard, and adoption of that metric is finally happening with ALMOST every third-party ad server. Yet, it’s time for our industry to admit, it’s just not good enough.

I have no problem with how it is defined – more than half the ad for at least a second – what’s wrong with viewability is that it’s only part of the story. Viewability will tell you that your ad had the ability to be seen, and that it was could have been seen by human eyes. But that’s it. For those of us who make ads, that’s like reading a book title and saying you’ve read the whole thing. It’s just not enough information. User behavior is a huge part of why viewability isn’t good enough.

Let’s say you’re reading a website, and there is an animated placement on the page at the top of the content. If you read the title and scroll to begin the content, you saw the ad, and it was there on screen for at least a second. But as you scroll down the ad disappears yet continues playing above the fold. When you finish reading an article what do you do? Close the tab? Click another article? Scroll back to the top of the page to see how that ad finally resolved into a cleverly crafted CTA and end frame?

Now what about a user who goes to a portal site, with content that refreshes all day? Maybe they see an ad among the content on the page, but instead they click on titles or images or videos that appeal to them, which opens a new tab or window. The page with your ad on it is still there, but one can see it, because they opened content on top of it. Sucks for your ad… but it was still “viewable.”

Viewability is still good and certainly belongs in reports, which is why we include with every campaign. It will help prevent fraud, and that’s good too. Advertisers and agencies are also pushing the supply-side to make viewable inventory available. Meaning they won’t just buy impressions, but will buy viewable impressions. Yet, viewability is not a performance metric, it doesn’t tell you anything that is actionable from the consumer side of the equation. Which is why we developed PointRoll AdView, an industry-first technology that measures the true creative playback on an impression that is deemed viewable.

How does it work? Once an ad renders on the page, if it is out of frame, below the fold, or on another tab, it will not begin playing. It will remain paused on the first frame until the ad is viewable, at which point the ad then starts playing. If at any point the ad is no longer viewable, like if the user leaves the page for another tab or window, or scrolls until the ad is out of view again, the ad stops playing. It will, of course, resume playing if it becomes viewable again. The true playback of the ad is measured in quartiles, and is available in our reporting interface if you’ve activated the feature.

Is it actionable? Of course. Let’s say you have a 10 second ad, and you run a campaign with us where you’ve purchased PointRoll AdView to strengthen your measurement. If post-campaign you find that large percentage of users only saw between 50 percent and 75 percent of your ad’s message, it’s time to start thinking about how you can say what you want to say in 5 seconds. PointRoll AdView allows you to ensure that a user will be able to get your entire message. Without it, advertisers are simply buying static images at the cost of rich media.

Viewability is necessary, but as far as digital metrics are concerned, it’s just not enough information.