WTF is viewability?
Download Digiday’s complete WTF Programmatic guide, including 11 explainers detailing the ins and outs of programmatic advertising.
Viewability has the potential to change the way online advertising is transacted, but there’s still confusion around what it actually is. Here’s a primer, in plain English:
So I keep hearing about viewable impressions and “viewability.” WTF is going on?
Viewability is an online advertising metric that aims to track only impressions that can actually be seen by users. For example, if an ad is loaded at the bottom of a webpage but a user doesn’t scroll down far enough to see it, that impression would not be deemed viewable. Viewability is designed to let advertisers pay only for the ads that users could possibly see.
That’s totally reasonable. Is this seriously an issue?
Actually, it is. Depending on whom you believe — and everyone has a dog in this fight — up to 54 percent of ads aren’t viewable.
Holy cow. So over half my online budget is being wasted?
That depends who you ask. According to the IAB, marketers are becoming increasingly frustrated that they’re paying for ad impressions nobody ever sees. The trade body wants the entire industry to shift from an impressions-served standard to an impressions-viewed standard, which it says will help eliminate wasted ad dollars. Some major ad networks have already begun to offer their customers the ability to pay only when their ads become viewable, including Google, Undertone and others. But according to some ad execs, non-viewable ad impressions are already priced into the cost of display inventory. Switching to viewable impressions will simply inflate media costs, they say, so the net cost will be the same for advertisers anyway. Google itself told Digiday it expects viewable impressions across its network to sell for more than non-viewable ones.
Wait a minute. Is this another way for buyers to put pressure on sellers?
In a word: yes.
Is there a set standard for what constitutes a viewable ad?
The main problem with switching to a viewability standard is that there’s still a lack of consistency around what a “viewable impression” actually is and what technology could measure its viewability. The IAB defines a “viewable” impression as one that’s at least 50 percent visible for at least one second, but vendors offering viewability solutions use various different methods and technologies to establish whether impressions meet those criteria or not. As a result, the Media Ratings Council advises that it’s still too early to transact on viewable impressions until these discrepancies are understood and accounted for.
So what will a shift to viewability mean for marketers, if and when it happens?
It’s hard to predict the impact it will have on the market, but in theory,the performance of marketers’ display ad campaigns should increase, since they will only pay for impressions being served to real people. The cost of those impressions might increase as a result, however, as noted above.
And publishers get screwed.
Some publishers are worried a shift to viewability will have a negative impact on their ad revenues, since they will probably be left with fewer impressions to sell. If their impression supply is cut in half, they need to be able to charge twice as much for inventory to maintain their revenue, and there’s no guarantee that will happen. From a design perspective, viewability will probably force publishers to move more of their ad units higher up the page, which could have a detrimental effect on user experience in the process.
It all sounds very uncertain.
It is. Nobody quite knows what effect viewability will have on the market. It represents a significant shift in the way online media is sold and also has implications for cookie tracking and attribution. Nobody can be quite sure how viewability will impact the wider online ad market until it becomes commonplace.
Wow, what if newspapers and magazines had to live up to those standards?
Member Exclusive‘Math doesn’t add up’: Publishers still face tough choices
“Just salary cuts will at most bring the costs down by 10%, at most, I can guarantee,” one exec messaged me.
Complex Networks plans to diversify its way through the pandemic
Complex Networks bills itself as one of the most diversified digital media companies in the business, so it’s counting on diversification to protect its business.
‘Rats out of the sewers’: Ad fraudsters are leaping on the coronavirus crisis
For ad fraudsters, the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis too tempting to go to waste. Website traffic is surging. But with advertisers adding coronavirus-related keywords to their block lists and others pausing spend altogether, ad prices on news sites are low. With less competition in the auction, low quality ads — and even publishers’ own […]
SponsoredRegulations are prompting publishers to develop new strategies around user log-ins
In a post-GDPR and post-cookie world, more publishers are making concerted efforts to explain the value of their content to users and increase the volume of consumer authentication.
WTF are post-auction discounts?
Post-auction discounts let advertisers compete in the auction as if it bid $6 or $7 or more, but then benefit from a discount after winning the auction.
Highsnobiety closes commerce, cuts 25% of staff
Highsnobiety was one of a few publishers who invested in product creation for its commerce business, rather than just peppering its site with affiliate links.