Don’t Lose Sight of Viewability

Written by Tim Edmundson

Viewability is important! Ads can only do their job if they are actually seen by your audience. It’s like the age-old question — “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The same can be said of ads that go unseen — “If an ad is served and no one ever sees it, does it make a sale?” The answer is no, of course not. The jury is still out on the tree, however.

Obviously, knowing your ads are being seen is crucial, but viewability is more than that. There are several benefits to keeping viewability top of mind when launching your campaigns. From protecting against ad fraud, to helping you identify key touch points and identifying truly valuable inventory, it not only helps your performance but holistically improves your marketing across a number of key areas.


For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick breakdown on the basics:

> What is viewability? | It’s the opportunity for a real human to see an ad.

> How is it measured? | The Media Ratings Council (MRC) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) state that a display ad must have 50% of its pixels on-screen for one second or more to be considered viewable. For video, at least 50% of its pixels must be on-screen, and two seconds of the video must play uninterrupted.

> What is viewability rate? | This is the total number of impressions that were served in-view, divided by the total impressions served. A site’s viewability rate can tell you how much of a chance your ads have of being seen.


One of the most valuable aspects of viewability is that it can act as a shield against fraudulent activity. According to the ANA, bots rob the industry of up $7.2 billion dollars a year, which means a lot of so-called “performance” is actually just fraudulent activity passing itself off as valid clicks.

Viewability works as a shield that can protect your campaigns from those thieving bots. By ensuring any optimizations are made to your campaigns with this in mind, you are buying inventory that is being seen by real people. That’s important because one of the biggest contributors to ad fraud are clicks and conversions coming from ads that were never actually viewable, hidden away on shady websites and placements that never see the light of day. By utilizing tools that parse through site viewability rates and only bid for placements that meet your desired threshold (the IAB recommends a baseline of 70%), you can remove tons of poor inventory right from the start, and get your ads in placements where they are likely to be seen by real people, and generate real performance.


When optimizing for viewability in your campaigns, you put yourself in a better position to track all the touchpoints in your customer’s conversion journey. A lot of marketers will run campaigns and pin their performance to click-revenue or last-touch performance in reporting systems like Google Analytics. But it’s crucial that marketers change their mindset when it comes to attribution — the future of the internet is looking like it’s going to be multi-touch.

As consumer relationships with the internet continue to evolve, so must the ways we track performance. Visual-heavy platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, for example, aren’t set up for a last-click world. As noted by eMarketer, brand presence on these platforms is extremely focused on creating an experience for their consumers — their main aim is building a world of content that their users engage with, and ultimately converting based on their familiarity with their brand. Scrolling through images, appreciating them, and then taking action based on those images is the norm for a lot of consumers.

Just think about the last time you were looking at funny dog pics (or cats, if that’s more your thing) and decided to search for more — your attribution model should take that kind of behavior into account when it comes to your customers and their interaction with your brand. And when it comes to combining viewability with multi-touch attribution, there is no better metric than the view-through. View-throughs, in which a user sees your ad and then later visits your site through a bookmark, organic listing, or direct URL, provide insight into which ad placements are driving conversions, giving you more insight into your customer’s’ journey. So instead of relying on a click to gauge performance, view-throughs (powered by viewability) give you more of the story, showing you the touchpoints that drove a user to convert — something a last-click attribution model may very well miss.


223855Viewability can be used to determine the overall quality of digital inventory. By knowing a site’s viewability rate, advertisers have a better understanding of the chances their ads have of being seen. And if inventory carries a higher guarantee that it will get your ad in front of your audience, it’s immediately more valuable than placements with lower or unknown viewability.

Integral Ad Science found that 38% of digital advertisers place viewability at the top of their concerns when it comes to the most important aspects of media quality, beating out ad fraud and brand safety. That’s a pretty notable statistic, especially with the all of the recent news around brand safety (we even touched on it here). Marketers are right to use viewability as a measuring stick for quality of placement, because when you’re optimizing for viewability, you’re automatically cutting out a lot of bad inventory. According to the recent comScore report “The State of Digital,” it’s reported that only 52% of served impressions are viewable — that’s barely half! If you’re not optimizing for viewability, the chances of ending up with unviewable inventory can very well be 50/50.

There’s one important thing to keep in mind though — when sites have higher viewability rates, it means their inventory is more valuable and carries a higher CPM. If you’re optimizing with this in mind, it’s important to know that you’ll be bidding higher, but it’s for a good cause. In a study conducted by Maxpoint, ad positions with over a 90% viewability rate have CTRs 73% greater than an ad placement with less than 90%. When real people can see your ads, it drives better performance — it’s as simple as that.


Viewability does a lot for your campaigns — it protects you from bad actors, helps you measure key touch points, and identifies valuable placements for your campaigns. By optimizing your campaigns with this in mind, you can sidestep that pesky question of whether or not your ads are being seen, and set your campaigns up to generate strong performance. So if viewability isn’t top of mind for you yet, it should be.