Determining the viewability of your ads

On websites, advertisers have relied upon metrics like click through rates, and number of impressions in order to price their ads. Knowing how many people are likely to click on an ad on a specific website page, or how many people view a page helps assign value to ad locations.

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Every ad format has metrics that the advertiser can utilize to determine user interaction with the ad.  Some may be clear such as a click – this is similar to thinking about people viewing a show on TV, or the number of listeners for a radio station. It is easily quantified. While clicks are relatively easy to measure – ad impressions on the other hand are trickier.  We know how many ad impressions are served, but how many are actually seen?  Ad viewability is determined by a percentage of the ad showing for a certain period of time (Google and IAB use the standard: 50% of the ad for 1 second).

The real dilemma comes into play when advertisers are trying to define an ad’s value for inventory priced by impressions. Without knowing how much of an ad can be seen and for what amount of time makes it very difficult to confidently establish an ad’s worth. While, advertisers may be able to see trends in purchases or brand awareness, but how much of that is directly due to internet exposure and how much from other media channels?

But does it really matter?  The pragmatist might say ‘no, not really, the market will price the inventory taking account of the non-viewed proportion, thus current rates already reflect the market value.’  But seen from another perspective, if inventory on one page can be proven to have better viewability, it might make that page or website more attractive to advertisers.

To try and get a better feel for the effectiveness of internet ads, Google AdSense and other ad networks have introduced viewability metrics, which allow advertisers to see how much of their ads are being seen and for how long. These metrics also allow publishers to optimize their inventory based on what placements have the best viewability. In theory, this should let advertisers price their ads better and develop more effective online marketing campaigns, while publishers give their sites an edge over their competitors.

Google sees viewable impression counts replacing served impressions as the most important metric for all campaigns over time, meaning only measured viewable impressions will be counted. Thus advertisers will know how many times an ad was actually seen, making an assessment of the impact of their ad spend much easier.  Knowing which inventory provides the biggest ‘bang for their buck’ will likely impact the choice of inventory, and sites with higher viewability metrics will become more attractive to advertisers.  Publishers on the other hand will have a clearer picture of what inventory is most valuable, which helps them optimize in a way that encourages visitors to those pages or sections.

Google has recently announced some new metrics and tools to help publishers and advertisers track the impact of viewability and other networks will likely follow suit. These Active View optimization tools for advertisers will allow a better way to programmatically buy viewable impressions, while the Active View metrics for publishers will help them track the viewability of ads on their sites.

It’s not certain what impact the increased awareness of ad viewability will have on the relationships between buyers and sellers, but we can be sure it’s here to stay, so it’s wise to keep up to date with developments.