The industry has been talking about the idea of “viewability” for as long as “the year of the mobile”. It seems we are at a bit of a watershed where technology is finally breaking through to allow the conversation to move into action.
First off, to clear up: What is Viewability and why should I care? Quite simply, we’re talking about whether a real user saw the ad I, as an advertiser, served on a website – not an auto played video on a pop-under, not a banner in the footer that 10 minutes of downward scrolling wouldn’t find. One of the current Stats du Jour is 54% of all display ads served worldwide currently are not actually in view when served (ComScore). This is a lot of media dollars spent on advertising never seeing the light of day. Based on digital ad spend being about 22% of the $50bn spent on media globally in 2013, that’s anywhere up to $6bn in “waste”.
The industry, backed by technology, is definitely making progress in this area – amongst others, Google has Active View, TubeMogul has released its Viewability for video product and the industry at large is banding together to work to a solution via the IAB’s Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative. It should only be a matter of time before viewability metrics become regular currency in display and video buys – it’s not really going out on a limb to expect this in 2014.
So what does this mean for the advertiser? Firstly, before jumping to any conclusions of cutting budgets by 54%, the use of the newest tools should provide insight – who are the publishers and exchanges who are worst for serving out of view impressions? Rather than specific publishers, is it specific parts of your targeted audience who have a higher propensity to view or not view due to their online behaviour? Only then can the Efficiency Scissors be sharpened and planners should be systematically working through their publisher lists to optimize towards sites where they’re ads have higher viewability. With that should bring improvements in engagement and all round improvements in performance.
Clearing the unviewable impressions away will make for a huge saving for advertisers, in turn screw over the naughty publishers who fooled us about their huge inventory for so long and advertisers can funnel all their saving out into TV and print, right?
No. Of course, there should definitely be a saving on any inventory that isn’t viewed (or a good proportion of it) – that’s just reducing wastage – but I would see these dollars reinvested into more expensive, more premium placements that are more likely to drive engagement. If publishers work hard to optimize their sites and placements to get ads into engaging, viewable positions, surely any brand would happily pay more, knowing it was going to be seen by their targeted consumer. This is what already sets digital, and programmatic RTB in particular, aside from other channels – the ability to specifically buy the audience you want to reach. With the overlay of 1st party and the multitude of 3rd party data sources, gone are the days where RTB was a bottom feeder of cheap inventory and the addition of viewability will only add to its ability to be an efficient channel to drive both sales and quality brand engagement, though all parties will need to forget the days of $1.50 CPMs being the hero statistic.