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How Are You Measuring Ad Viewability?

Viewability brings about ad spending waste

Ad verification, a tool or service used to validate the delivery of digital display advertising, is a critical line item in many media plans today. It has long been used to vet ad fraud and brand safety, but within the past year, has become a vital tool for assessing viewability—a growing mandate as the industry moves from ad-served to viewable impression standards—according to a new eMarketer report, “Ad Verification: From Post-Campaign Reporting to Real-Time Prevention.”

Study after study shows that viewability makes for significant ad spending waste. In a survey from Integral Ad Science, roughly half of US banner impressions served on advertising networks and exchanges in H2 2013 went unseen. Publisher-direct buys were more likely to yield higher in-view percentages, but by and large, the majority of ads bought never even reached a pair of eyeballs.

Although such data might suggest that site direct—typically a more reliable source of premium inventory—is likely to have higher viewability numbers, marketers should be careful not to conflate “premium” inventory sources with premium viewability numbers. For instance, video ads, which tend to be the most expensive premium of all display ads, can have just as poor viewability percentages as their banner counterparts.

For example, video ad management and ad-serving platform Vindico found that between September 2013 and December 2013, just 44% of ads served via its Adtricity platform were in-view. And January 2014 data from video advertising solutions provider TubeMogul showed even lower numbers for video ads shown on players smaller than 1,000 pixels.

Advertisers—particularly brand advertisers—have been calling for the industry to take action against such significant ad spending waste since 2011, when the industry first set out to standardize both the definition and measurement of viewable impressions for display. Many believe that journey will finally come to an end this year. Industry momentum appears to be in their favor, after the Media Rating Council finally lifted its advisory on viewability measurement in March 2014. This green light comes after both standardizing the industry definition of viewability for banners and video display ads as well as accrediting a host of viewability measurement vendors.

Though many are confident the future of digital display buying will be the viewable impression, today, media buyers—many of whom are including viewability as a line item in their RFPs—are still somewhat unsure of how to hold publishers accountable for transacting with this new currency.


The full report, “Ad Verification: From Post-Campaign Reporting to Real-Time Prevention,” also answers these key questions:

  • How has ad verification changed in the past year?
  • How is ad verification evolving to account for viewable impressions?
  • What influence is programmatic advertising having on ad verification?
  • What limitations still exist when deploying ad verification for video advertising?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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