In digital advertising, viewability is a mis-labelled concept and the wrong conversation for the industry, believes Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing at online travel company Expedia.
For a company that puts half its digital spend on programmatic, and in an industry where many agencies and clients are pushing the importance of viewability, it’s a sentiment that is not commonly aired.
“I think it is a mis-labelling of what is actually going on,” Walia told B&T at the Programmatic Summit in Sydney on Wednesday. And it’s not just in Australia the viewability conversation – of which many agencies are pledging to trade on – is happening, but the US has a lot of coverage too.
“When an agency says there’s viewable impressions and non-viewable impressions, the client is naturally going to say ‘well I only want the viewable ones’.
“It’s a faulty conversation. The conversation should get into the technology that’s making something viewable versus not. Meaning, there are impressions that are served that are viewable, but just not measured. And that’s not part of the conversation.”
Walia fell into the trap that viewability matters, he said, because by deeming something viewable, it means there’s other things that aren’t viewable.
Therefore as a marketer, why would I want anything that’s unviewable?
“The problem is it’s a nomenclature,” he continued. “Calling it viewability isn’t a real thing. The reality is, the metrics that we assign on viewability is only of all the impressions that are actually trackable.”
When you think about it, he said, there’s impressions that are unmeasurable so they’re lopped off. And then there’s the ones that are measurable, which the industry has deemed viewable (based off the metric that an ad is viewable if at least half of it has been in sight for at least one second).
“The reality is there’s a whole sleuth of impressions that may very well be viewable, but they’re not measured. So therefore they’re lopped off that viewabiltiy metric.”
The company used to measure on its campaign viewability rate, said Walia. Expedia used to have a viewability rate of 40 per cent, and then moved it up to 70 per cent.
“We saw a decline in scalability – of course, because we’re not able to get 70 per cent continuously – and then we removed viewability all together, recognising that it is a flawed metric.
“We don’t set viewability goals beforehand. Rather…post-campaign, we look at what the viewability was of that campaign and ask how we can improve and optimise it.
“We don’t go in and say ‘thou must hit 40 per cent or 70 per cent [viewability]. We actually don’t have a viewability metric at all.”
Walia was quick to point out though Expedia does still measure, at the end of the campaign, whether its ads were viewable, alongside its other impression metrics.
“What we found was using viewability as a metric is the wrong KPI (key performance index).”