We've heard about the death of the click for years, but the click has been pervasive, surviving each wave of innovation. But it appears that the click has met its match, as a new metric has taken hold across the online advertising industry; a metric with the power to become equally or potentially more important than the click: Ad Viewability.
That metric is ad viewability; an online advertising metric that tracks only the impressions that users actually see. For example, if an advertisement loads at the bottom of a website but a user doesn’t scroll down far enough to see it, that impression would not be deemed viewable. Viewability is designed to let advertisers pay only for the advertisements that users actually see.
To understand the implications of viewability, let’s take a step back and look at the previous landscape of buying, selling, and serving display ads.
Display advertising has historically been sold by impression. A publisher gets millions of views to their website every month and monetizes that traffic by selling real estate on those pages to advertisers. Impressions are typically sold by the thousand, traditionally at a fixed rate (but more recently sold dynamically in real-time); however, not all impressions are treated equally. Depending on the placement of an ad, the cost-per-mille (thousand) rate may be set at a premium or a discount.
Impressions Gone Unseen
Impressions have conventionally been measured whenever a call to the server is made to load an image, but this doesn’t guarantee an actual view. Ads placed in high, prominent positions are more likely to actually be viewed and typically come at a higher rate and will earn a higher ad viewability score.
Why might an ad not get viewed? There are several reasons:
- If an ad is placed below the fold of a page, the visitor may not scroll far enough to see it, although technically, the ad loaded.
- If an ad load time is too slow, the visitor may have already left the page before the ad is able to be viewed.
- In the digital age, spam occurs. Bots can load pages without any real human interaction and can impact performance.
Before anyone could fix the issue of non-viewable impressions, they had to define what it actually meant to view an ad. The Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative was developed to redefine the concept of Viewable Impressions. The 3MS initiative created the standard for viewable display impressions at: “a minimum of 50 percent of pixels in view for a minimum of 1 second.”
The next few years will see a major shift in the way display ads (including dynamic ads) are priced and valued online, and it is hoped that introducing ad viewability campaigns by “targeted audience impressions viewed” rather than just “ad impressions” will enable brands to see better campaign results.