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Advertising Online? How's Your Viewability?

By Amir Nahmias
Aug 10, 2015 9:55 AM PT

Viewability -- that is, a display or video ad's ability to be viewed effectively on a Web page -- is the most critical factor in any video or display ad campaign. However, a surprisingly large percentage of display and video ads lacked either visibility or longevity, the two most important pieces of viewability, in recent studies.

Advertising Online? How's Your Viewability?

Visibility is the ability to gain immediate exposure within a target audience, and longevity is a video's ability to maintain a long-term presence.

How exactly can a marketer ensure short- or long-term viewability? Which platforms should be used to provide marketers with the strongest visibility? Which technical factors should be considered as part of the decision-making process in a given video ad campaign? How can one most effectively maximize viewability to create effective advertising?

Differentiating Between Video and Display Ads

When it comes to video ads in particular, 47 percent of desktop video ads were not considered "viewable" in a December 2014 Google study, meaning that there was no instance inside those videos when 50 percent of an ad's pixels were visible on a screen for at least two consecutive seconds.

However, that same study showed Google-owned YouTube having 91 percent viewability versus the industry average of 53 percent.

More interesting is the industry-wide trend that indicates mobile display and mobile video ads are consistently proving more viewable than desktop ads.

Google's products boast the highest industry viewability rates, according to its study -- but the research does not hide the low overall viewability of display advertising. Google's own display ad platforms had a visibility rate of just 56.1 percent; some publishers had viewability rates that were consistently as low as 35 percent.

The study's five key findings that specifically affected display ad viewability:

  1. An outsized number of publishers dragged down display ad viewability rates.
  2. Ads right above the fold performed better than ads at the top of a page.
  3. Ads above the fold achieved 68 percent viewability, versus around 40 percent of ads below the fold.
  4. Vertical ad units were the most viewable, while the popular 300 x 250 ad unit had the lowest viewability rate at 41 percent.
  5. Different verticals achieved different viewability rates: Reference scored the highest at 51.9 percent, while hobbies and leisure scored the lowest at 44.8 percent.

Premium Publishers vs. Ad Networks

In order for marketers to make sense of the numbers, it's important to take into account differences in the way advertisers execute their campaigns. For example, there is a major difference between premium publisher sites and ad networks.

Premium publishers generally earned a 54 percent viewability rating, while ad networks and exchanges only had a 34 percent viewability rate when it came to display advertising, according to a recent ComScore study.

Those findings were reiterated in a 2014 Nielsen study with almost identical results.

Video is slightly more viewable, assuming advertisers take the appropriate actions to make their advertisements effective and viewable, statistics have shown.

Longevity is the other key factor that must be considered when measuring viewability, especially when it comes to videos.

Facebook often outperforms YouTube in short-term viewability, but the reverse is true over the long term when it comes to keeping content visible over a long period of time, a recent Visible Measures study found.

While the nature of Facebook's News Feed -- and social media in general -- allows for the speedy spreading of videos and other content, that is also its Achilles' Heel, as the fast-paced nature of social media reduces the visibility of a video campaign over the long term.

The strength of Facebook in promoting trending content also highlights how powerful YouTube remains as a platform for continued and returning viewership. Over the long term, any video has the ability to stay relevant, viewable and relatively easy to find on YouTube. However, that longevity is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate on Facebook, Twitter, or any of mainstream social media platforms.

Making Final Marketing Decisions

Marketers should make sure to focus their marketing decisions toward maximizing viewability and effectiveness. A developer looking to make a strong immediate push, for example, would execute a campaign differently from one looking to carve a long-term fixed presence.

For example, a well-placed advertisement on a website or on Facebook may best serve somebody looking to make a powerful short-term push, whereas a video on YouTube may be a better choice for someone looking to create a long-term presence.

Viewability should be the primary factor when deciding on the placement of an ad within a page, or when choosing the ideal publisher for a display advertisement.

Both video and display advertisements entail calculated decisions, and understanding where display and video advertisements are most effective allows marketers and sites to advertise effectively rather than wastefully, avoiding pitfalls that render ads no longer viewable.

While video generally has proven more viewable and effective, every advertiser has a budget and a variety of opportunities, and both have the potential to be effective.


Amir Nahmias is the general manager of Perion Codefuel, which provides monetization solutions for desktop and mobile platforms.


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