RPM Advertising

Digital Ad Viewability: An Opportunity To Be Seen

by Mara Schneider

Ad Visibility

To put it more precisely, Viewability in the digital ad ecosystem is an online advertising metric that aims to track only impressions that can actually be seen by people. For example, if an ad is loaded at the bottom of a webpage but a user doesn’t scroll down far enough to see it, that impression would not be deemed viewable.

The viewable impression is the key to making digital media measurement comparable to that of traditional media. In television, radio, and print, the consumer has the opportunity to see (or hear) the ad. Television commercials are rendered on screens. Radio ads are broadcasted. In digital media, current technologies only measure if an ad has been served, not how fully it rendered on the screen or how long it was present. The viewable impression and the technological innovations that support it answer this need. It is important to note that the viewable impression takes it beyond traditional media; there is a higher likelihood that a person has seen a digital ad compared to a person being in the room to see the TV commercial or changing stations and not hearing a radio ad.

Industry research shows that an average of 55% of all digital display ads do not have the opportunity to be seen. This could be due to many factors: the ad is below-the-fold and the user did not see it OR by fraudulent non-human traffic from bots or other computer programs.

Moving toward Viewability is RPM’s #1 priority and we are setting up systems to ensure that all of our advertisers are getting the highest percent of viewable impressions. Verification companies including 3rd party ad servers now have viewability measurement built in to measure whether an ad is viewable or not on desktops or PCs. Mobile measurement will follow shortly but is not ready for primetime.

How is it Measured? The Methodology

Most measurement companies including Integral Ad Science (IAS) use geometric data measuring the position of the ad relative to the viewport or other elements of the browser. This technology works for finding the corners of the ad in the window and determining if it is on the user’s screen. 70% of all ads are capable of being measured to determine if they are viewable on desktop inventory.

Mobile in-app is difficult to measure, however, on average about 80% of inventory in apps is viewable, making it much higher than desktop.
It is important to note that publisher-direct sites like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are not measured by viewability measurement vendors, however, this will change in the near future. Their argument is that they are mostly viewable due to the nature of in-feed mobile viewing habits but this has not been proven. Facebook just recently announced a partnership with IAS to start measuring its inventory viewability.

Protecting against Fraud

In addition to viewability, it is important to address Ad Fraud. Ad Fraud is defined as the practice of serving digital ads that have no chance of being viewed by a human user or are misrepresented by the seller. Fraud can either be non-human traffic (bot traffic) or human traffic that is misleading to the advertiser.

Agencies and Publishers cannot measure Viewability unless we first address Fraud. Ad Fraud is a big concern on both sides and can run rampant through Ad Exchange inventory.

Below is a list of common fraud tactics used:

  • Click Farms: groups of users intentionally generating traffic for the purpose of inflating impressions or clicks (was more common 5 years ago)

  • Ad Stacking: covering ads with other ads

  • Non-viewable or Hidden Ads

  • Bots (Non-human traffic or NHT): prevalent on both regular sites and premium sites

  • URL Masking or Impression Laundering (Spoofing): detecting one URL with another (domain is misrepresented); illegal activity hidden by legitimate sites (made to look like real sites, a façade)

  • Unintentional Navigation: zero click traffic, pop-ups/unders, redirects

How to protect ourselves against Fraud?

  • Pre-Bid Segments (detecting viewability before the ad is served)

  • Verification Services

  • Private Marketplaces

  • Tiered Inventory Levels

Advertisers must look at Viewability AFTER Fraud, meaning filter out fraud before looking at viewability.

What’s Next?

Over the next few months, RPM will be introducing our approach to viewability. By improving the quality of our ad placements, we not only improve viewability and combat fraud but we will ultimately improve performance results for our clients.