While it might be one of the most desired measurements the industry is hoping will become a widespread reality soon, research from technology firm Quantcast warns against high expectations on viewability, saying some aspects of the standard can’t be measured and will harm campaign performance.
The study entitled ‘Viewability: What smart marketers need to know’ – which is available for download here – looks at the state of viewability currently within the UK, and the various “hard truths” about it.
In a blog post from UK managing director Matt White, viewability can sometimes be “more hindrance than help”.
“Many advertisers are now asking for 100 per cent viewability but, as an industry, are we being too quick to ask so much?”
At the moment, an ad is deemed viewable if more than 50 per cent of its pixels are on screen for at least one second, or at least two seconds for a video ad. The definitions were created by the Media Rating Council (MRC) and currently there isn’t a standard for mobile.
However, while many agencies around the world – and here in Australia such as GroupM and IPG Mediabrands – are pushing forwards in the quest to trade on viewable impressions, the study from Quantcast said on average some ten per cent of inventory “cannot be measured for viewability due to lacking the information necessary for measurement”.
“This means that high-value consumers may appear on inventory that can’t be measured,” the report continued. “Even though these ads may be viewable they will not be defined that way. If an advertiser is measuring to a strict viewability goal this can harm campaign performance.”
The study also suggested there are “missed opportunities” when vendor discrepancy gets in the way. Which is why agencies are urged to use an accredited vendor – a company that has been deemed reliable by the MRC.
The issue with this though, as Alice Manners, CEO of industry body IAB, pointed out, is that there are numerous vendors accredited by the MRC and they don’t all measure the same.
In a recent article where we looked at the overall state of the nation of viewability, following GroupM’s foray into the space, Manners recommended buyers and sellers agree on a vendor from the very start.
However, in the UK, Quantcast noted the average discrepancy between vendors is around seven per cent. The maximum is at 33 per cent. The study didn’t have data on the discrepancy in Australia.
In other “hard truths” about viewability, Quantcast found there is limited inventory available for spots that would have very high viewability, as well as the common misconception an ad at the top of a webpage (known as an ad above-the-fold (ATF)) is better for viewability.
“Many marketers assume that ATF makes for higher viewability,” said the report. “However Quantcast research shows that ATF is a poor proxy for viewability, with one exchange at only 44 per cent viewability rate on ATF inventory.”
And finally, the report puts a firm stance on whether 100 per cent viewability is achievable right now – the answer is “no”, with the reasons being user behaviour is unpredictable and the technology just isn’t there yet.
“Viewability will, and certainly must, continue to be focus for the industry, with new ad formats continually being developed that help increase the volume of viewable inventory. However, this research highlights that, for now, there is still a compromise to be made in terms of pricing and performance, if viewability is a priority.”