Viewability: Users See the Ads; Do Marketers See the Value?
[Editor's note: This is a contributed article attempting to make the case for viewability as a metric. We thought this would stir a bit of debate due to the growing need for content marketing attribution, which marketing teams are using to determine which touchpoints matter.]
ZenithOptimedia estimates display ad spending will reach $50 billion this year. At the same time, numerous industry estimates state that roughly 50 percent of ads are never seen. That's approximately $25 billion wasted this year … just on display.
Given the Media Ratings Council's recent announcement on the progress of viewability standardization across vendors, you'd expect every agency to dive headfirst into applying viewability measurement across their campaigns. But a funny thing happened on the way to typical vendor assessment …
Rather than enduring endless pitch decks touting the latest "must-have" product, agencies are instead demanding specific use cases for how a viewability solution unlocks additional media value. In order to prove the utility of a viewability solution to their advertiser clients, agencies are demanding that viewability data, by default, be layered against performance metrics (viewable CPM, viewable CPC, etc.), and not just represented as a standalone data point.
The potential value goes beyond campaign planning and assessment. Agencies increasingly are interested in sophisticated attribution models. While ascribing value to a complex chain of ads can be difficult, the addition of viewability can increase the confidence that the ROI assessment is both thorough and accurate.
Attribution models, after all, take into account more than just clicks, interactions and conversions. Though their value can be difficult to assess, every ad exposure can be meaningful, and they often serve as critical links in the path to conversion. When assessing the impact of a display touchpoint, sophisticated attribution models ought to consider viewability when determining the true contribution of an ad impression.
By measuring whether an ad was not only viewable, but actively viewable (active browser tab and window), an advertiser can feel confident that ad impressions "filling the gaps" between ad interaction events contributed in some way to the attribution model.
And of course this goes beyond display. The MRC's recent announcement also signaled to many that we'll begin to see far more TV dollars shifting to digital video now that viewability is gaining increased momentum but, again, agencies are expecting more.
Reaching the correct target audience is still the primary objective of a TV buyer. As TV dollars shift to online video, the first order of business is simulating audience buys by incorporating online GRP metrics into overall media planning. It's here that the addition of viewability becomes valuable. By tracking whether a video ad is actively viewable, a video ad buyer can also better simulate the TV experience, in addition to audience measurement. In a world of muted, autoplay video ads, this is becoming even more important.
The early results are telling when viewability becomes a focal point of media planning and optimization. Our own research at Sizmek shows that viewable impressions increase CTR by 54 percent and engagement rates by a factor of 2.5. Performance like this—for brand marketers with reach goals, or direct response marketers interested in conversion events—brings increased confidence in digital advertising, as a whole.