What is viewability, and how does it affect digital advertising?

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AS I wrote this article, it occurred to me for the first time that “viewability” is actually not a word. It is, rather, a moniker coined recently by the digital marketing industry.

When I say “recently”, I mean it has been around only for a couple of years. However, in the digital world a couple of years is an eternity, considering the speed with which it has evolved.
Somehow, most marketers still have a vague idea what viewability actually is, and how it affects your digital-advertising strategies.
In layman’s terms, “viewability” is how an ad is viewed by the user of the screen. That many seem obvious but it is still somewhat ambiguous and subjective, because an ad can be placed on a page but not be “viewable” because of its positioning and various other factors.
Let’s then objectively define viewability as per Media Ratings Council (MRC) standards. A display ad is viewable if 50 per cent or more of its pixels appear on-screen for one continuous second. A video ad is viewable if 50 per cent appears for two seconds. Finally, if at least 30 per cent of all pixels in a rich media ad is seen for a second, it is considered viewable.
So when first-of its-kind research conducted by IPG Media |Lab in the US, in conjunction with Integral Ad Science and Cadreon, |concluded that 57 per cent of the |current display ads in the market are not human/not viewable, you know something is seriously wrong.
There were in essence three |objectives of the research: to establish the correlation between an increase in viewability and an ad’s effectiveness; to see if when an ad is more viewable, more people will see it; and to |find strategies that advertisers can employ to make less viewable ads more effective.
A sample of 9,876 people was tested under 189 different ad scenarios with the following variables being controlled to determine the final results: percentage in view, time in view, ad type, industry vertical, logo placement, audio, share of view and contextual relevance.

Three major findings can be
concluded from the study:
1. Viewability is highly related to ad effectiveness.
2. How long the ad is in view matters more than how much of it is in view.
3. All ad strategies are not created equal: Some help more at lower viewability levels than others.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the higher the viewability, the more eyeballs you will gain.
Much to our surprise, while attention increases with viewability, it is not guaranteed that consumers are internalising the ads (an ad that meets the MRC standard and another that does not had the same ad recall at 17 per cent). Data conclude that ads that simply met the standard did not have impact on ad recall at all. This implies that even some impressions below the MRC standard may have impact, mostly because some partial ads could be in view for a long period of time.
However, the most important finding is that viewability is highly related to effectiveness. So even an ad with a low percentage in view with a higher time in view is much more effective than an ad with a high percentage in view but shown at a shorter time (+10.4 per cent versus +3.8 per cent change in ad recall).
So the golden question arises: Does viewability affect all types of advertising |the same way? The answer is |generally yes. “Time in view” affects all ad types similarly.
The same research also indicated that if you enhance the ad by adding an audio effect to it, the ad will be more effective than one that didn’t (+22 per cent versus +8 per cent change in ad recall).
Other results from the US-based research are quite exhaustive for an article like this, so I will give you the key takeaways you can employ for your next digital campaign:
1. Use video ads, prioritising ad spaces where audio is likely to be on.
2. It doesn’t pay only to strive for 100 per cent in view. Focus on ad placement where ads are more likely to be viewed for longer periods of time (eg out-of-stream, e-mail).
3. Be sure to place the logo at the top of the ad, where it is immediately visible.
4. Aim for ad spaces that are |less likely to be cluttered with other ads.

Pradon Sirakovit is associate director for corporate communications at IPG Mediabrands Thailand.