Viewable impressions – should be welcomed by the industry, but with caution

13/12/2012

We consider the growing buzz around the ‘viewable impression’ metric and reasons why for most in the industry it seems like a natural step in the evolution and growing maturity of online advertising.

News that ‘viewable impressions’ are likely to become a more widely adopted measurement currency in 2013, with the help of the US-based Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative, should be welcomed by those in the online advertising ecosystem. A move away from simply counting impressions served to impressions actually seen by the consumer has to be a good thing. It has the potential to reduce the over-counting of impressions, lead to greater buyer confidence and demand, increase publisher revenues (in the long run) and facilitate cross media planning and buying (with its concomitant online GRP metric).

While online advertising advocates have often stated that digital media overcomes the challenge in traditional media of not knowing which “half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted”, this is not necessarily true. With an early 2012 Comscore report stating that 31% of display ads go unseen, do online advertisers really know to what extent their impressions are wasted? Would a currency that guarantees real audience exposure not be preferable?

For advertisers, only paying for ads that are viewable, and not wasting money on ads that don’t load properly, appear at the bottom of a page or below-the-fold will surely give them more confidence in their investment. It’s something that many savvy digital marketers have been doing for a while now anyway, using the likes of DoubleVerify, RealVu and Flashtalking to verify their ad impressions. And yes, they might have to pay a little more (as inventory lowers and prices rise) but that should be compensated by improved response (from both a branding and direct response perspective).

For publishers, it might mean that their below-the-fold, deeply buried inventory becomes de-valued and they will see an initial drop in revenues as a result. But by making their viewable inventory work harder, ie by increasing its value through the application of advanced targeting technology, then their revenues should bounce back. This was a scenario that played out at the US online publisher NBCNews.com. While they initially saw a 30% reduction in inventory, they also saw huge increases in ad effectiveness. Click-through rates on half-page ads rose three times higher than the industry average, and rates on medium rectangles increased 2.5 times from their previous norms. Being able to offer advertisers this type of potential improved return can only be good for online publisher businesses in the long run.

For digital media planners, trading in viewable ad impressions should give them more confidence in the numbers, mean that they can reduce the volume of impressions needed to achieve campaign objectives and enable them to deal with a more quality product. And for the online audience, a greater industry focus on viewable impressions should have little discernible difference to their online experience.

However, there are still a number of challenges to making viewable impressions the de facto industry trading currency that will likely delay its universal adoption.

The definition of a viewable impression is still to be clarified – in terms of how long does an ad have to be viewed. This will require more debate amongst the various industry bodies involved. It relies on ad view technology working accurately. And more than anything else it will need the whole industry to get behind it and adopt it. There may be circumstances where the currency does not work for everyone, some ad networks might not like it and some advertisers may not be that inclined towards it, but if it improves the overall appeal and effectiveness of online advertising then it should be welcomed.

<< Back to articles

Copyright ©2000-2018 Digital Strategy Consulting Limited | All rights reserved | This material is for your personal use only | Using this site constitutes acceptance of our user agreement and privacy policy