As a search marketer from day 1 of my professional career (about 6 years ago), I have always thought that accountability for advertising spend was an obvious and standard expectation. The agency I was working for at the time often partnered with display shops to service clients wanting to run both search and display campaigns (back in the day when all display campaigns were direct buys). On client calls, I would hear their account managers talk about “view-through” conversions and how obscenely efficient and effective their campaigns were. The idea of “view-through” conversions always troubled me though. They were taking credit for a conversion because a publisher reported a banner was displayed somewhere on their site? The user didn’t specifically acknowledge being influenced by the ad with an actual click?
More recently, as Google has become one of the largest display networks (which I still want to call “content targeting”) and CPC bidding has become available for display inventory versus CPM only, the worlds have collided. I will admit that I do now accept some degree of added value from display ad impressions, but I would never feel comfortable reporting 100% of view-through conversions to any client. Clients themselves have also come to expect a higher degree of accountability for their marketing budget.
What is ad “viewability”?
The IAB defines a viewable ad as one where at least 50% of the ad loads and is visible on the user’s screen and is present on the screen for 1 second or more. This is basically setting criteria for what makes an ad most likely to have been seen by human eyes.
Why should you care about ad viewability?
I’ve already used this word a few times and I’m sure it will crop up again before the end of this post. Accountability. That’s what it all boils down to. It will be a lot easier to explain to your boss that your display campaign spend impacted potential customer behavior when you can prove, to a certain degree, that the impressions you paid for were actually seen by a real live person with a beating heart. Publishers will be held accountable for the impressions they deliver. As an advertiser you will presumably be able to expect improved performance with premium page placements – the presumption is ads with higher viewability garner higher conversion rates.
What’s going on right now on the ad viewability front?
Viewability is still in very early stages and there are some considerable challenges that lie ahead before viewable impressions are the standard. Namely, measurement. Google, and a few others have developed technologies that can measure viewability, but a large number of ad impressions are still unable to be measured. In an effort to advance this whole idea, industry leaders have come together in an initiative dubbed 3MS – Making Measurement Make Sense), whose mission is to:
Identify and define digital media currencies and the core metrics for planning, buying and evaluating brand advertising across all platforms.
3MS will surely be key in the standardization and promotion of viewability in coming months.
One place you can already take advantage of viewable impressions is Google. Google’s Active View product started reporting on viewability last year and as of December 2013, you can actually bid on a CPM basis on the GDN for viewable impressions only (Inside AdWords: Viewability Across the GDN). It’s really exciting that this is already available for one of the largest display networks out there and surely a sign of what’s to come. I for one am anxious to see how display campaign planning, buying and results are impacted by increased accountability (there it is again!) for ad impressions.
Ad viewability in the “news” AKA “some articles I found interesting and inspired this post”: