Video ads: New strategy is vital to achieve a bigger audience

Over half of display ads served aren’t seen. Irfon Watkinsreveals the tools and tricks to increase your viewability

ChildrenVideo advertising spend is exploding but how much value is being lost by ads served but skipped, below the fold or scrolled over? Photograph: Voisin/ Voisin/phanie/Phanie Sarl/Corbis

The issue of viewability – how many people are actually seeing your online advert – is currently one of the key topics for debate among digital advertisers.

Viewers may be glued to their favourite on-demand TV shows, frantically sharing viral videos with their social circle and routinely posting breaking news clips, but how many people are seeing the ads that surround this content?

Incredibly, over half of online display ads are never actually seen by website visitors, according to the latest figures by comScore who conducted an analysis of thousands of campaigns. This means that a phenomenal proportion of digital ads are being served but not seen.

This can happen for a number of reasons. Viewers may take the option to scroll off adverts they don’t want to engage with or skip tabs. The layout of a publisher’s website or the ad’s positioning could also mean they simply don’t see them, like for instance if an ad is served “below the fold” and users don’t scroll down. That ad has technically been loaded or ‘served’ to the user, but never actually gets seen.

The concept of viewability is having industry-wide repercussions, not least when it comes to billing, as advertisers realise that they may be paying for ads that their target audience don’t see.

The Media Rating Council (MRC) in the United States is now championing a move from a ‘loaded impression’ to a ‘viewable impression’ when it comes to calculating eCPM (Effective Cost per Mille), one of the standard methods of billing by publishers.

Having viewability as the new metric will ensure that advertisers don’t waste a huge proportion of their online advertising budget on branding and marketing messages that are not, in fact, reaching their desired audience.

However, assessing ad viewability is difficult because there hasn’t been an industry standard metric with which to do so.

In December, Google announced that its Active View product would only charge clients for viewable ads. Accredited by the MRS, it counts an ad as “viewable” if more than 50 per cent of it is visible on the screen for one second or longer. This month, Google also announced a new partnership with comScore that will give advertisers and publishers on its DoubleClick platform access to real-time data about who is seeing ads.

By integrating comScore’s Validate Campaign Essentials (vCE) ad measurement product into its DoubleClick offering, it will improve advertisers’ ability to optimise campaigns as they happen and make sure their messaging reaches the intended audience.

But it’s not only big industry players that are reacting. Brands are also being proactive in their approach to viewability.

MoneySuperMarket announced in January that it was working with ad viewability firm Meetrics to increase the efficiency of its online media spend by improving the viewability of ads bought via programmatic trading channels.

ABC has also launched a viewability certification programme to give brands greater transparency around viewability products and what they do.

The programme is designed to report on a product’s capability to measure viewability in different scenarios using two key variables: the ‘percentage in view’ and ‘time’.

Supporting media owners, advertisers and the media buying community, it will test results on how different products work as well as showing the variety of measurement capabilities available.

As the debate around viewability plays out in the market, marketers are doing all they can to maximise the visibility of their online ads, especially around video, a medium that has soared in popularity as people watch content on the move on mobile devices.

Adverts that deliver a contextual experience that enhances the content and engages the consumer are proving to be much more appealing than those that try to distract consumers from the content they want to view.

Integrating contextual advertisements into premium publisher video content is one way of doing this. In this way advertisers are giving viewers information they actually want, when they want it.

If marketers truly want to see a return on investment, they need to ensure that consumers both see and engage with their online ads. The way to do that is to pay close attention to viewability figures and to make ads as relevant as possible.

Irfon Watkins is CEO of Coull

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