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Viewability: No Guarantee for Success

Viewability is a hot topic in the advertising industry. Both advertisers and publishers have their eyes on this matter and not a week goes by without someone writing about it. Although viewability is fundamental for further growth of the display ecosystem, it is far from being the holy grail. Like a click on a banner, viewability is just a raw indicator for success and nothing more than a starting point to help guide your advertising decisions. It rarely is an end goal by itself. An advertiser who optimizes all of his marketing efforts to reach 100% viewability is making a fool's bargain.

A lot of gaming websites, video websites or sites like Speedtest.net have the best viewability rates in the market. And then there are websites that do everything to get their viewability as high as possible, like the Sticky/Scroll ads we have been seeing a lot lately. But do they also provide the quality, engagement and sales you desire in your campaigns?

The discrepancy between viewability and online success

I often see large and remarkable discrepancies between viewability rate and the actual on-site interaction and conversion. Let's take the Dutch newspaper telegraaf.nl as an example: although the viewability of the ad positions above the fold is generally over 70 percent, I see the best results for the rectangle position far below the fold, embedded within the news articles. Positioned where users are focused on the content with an higher time spent on page. Although this position has a viewability rate of “only” 35 percent, it outperforms on CPA by 300% for both sales and brand metrics.

When the industry keeps treating viewability as a goal in itself, the gates will be far open for fraudulent parties that will do anything to get the highest viewability as possible. Similar to click bots, pop-ups and clickbait websites manipulating the click-through rate, we will start seeing 'viewability bots' and malicious websites that will try to fake viewability as much as possible, using a variety of technical tricks.

Viewability as a tool, not a goal

But what should we do with viewability instead? Use viewability as a valuable and efficient way to run smarter advertising and to provide valuable insights, but not as a goal in itself. Think of use cases like:

  • Post-viewable conversion tracking. By using viewability as a touch point in conversion measurement you can get insights on whether the high viewability also resulted in increased on-site behavior, like a qualitative visit (over x seconds on the website), or an interaction on the website like putting a product in the shopping basket.

  • DSP's & viewability. Enrich your RTB platform with viewability data to learn and bid smarter and faster on inventory, but don’t forget to check the relation with other KPI's, like creative interaction and on-site engagement. Various DSP's are investing heavily in the enrichment of their their platform with viewability data. Although this currently mostly concerns reporting, it will find its way to bidding algorithms and smart targeting in the near future.

  • Viewability & creative. Create smarter creatives by dynamically integrating viewability duration to change the creative content after x seconds. For example, you can change the showed offer after a certain viewability time. Or move your call to action forward as soon as you know you are serving on a page with a low viewability duration. For example the Dutch weather website buienradar.nl typically has a viewability rate of over 80 percent, but the time spent on the page is often just 10 seconds. You can also implement this non-dynamically by bundling domains and placements with equivalent viewability durations and serve separate creatives for those groups.

  • Don’t limit yourself to the default IAB viewability ratio of 1 second and 50 percent of the surface, but try to see viewability in relation to creative size and creative duration. A billboard with a viewability of 50 percent will probably have more post-viewable impact than a rectangle with a viewability of 75 percent. Try to find a correlation between the number of pixels that was viewable and the number of interactions it resulted in.

  • Finally, don’t forget the price you pay for the inventory. Why wouldn’t you want to run on an advertising slot with only 20 percent viewability when the CPM you pay is in line with your goals?

Try out these use cases of viewability and try not to focus solely on 100 percent viewability as the only KPI for your display advertising. Otherwise we are doomed to follow the same path as we did with the click-through rate 10 years ago.

==This post has been previously published on Marketingfacts. ==

This post was translated by Siebe Hiemstra