Want Your Ads Seen?

Written by Tim Edmundson

If there was an award for “Most Persistent Hot-Button Issue” in the digital advertising industry, viewability would win hands down. For years, advertisers have called for more viewability metrics for their ads because what good is an advertisement if no one sees it, right? The market has started to respond to these demands with vCPMs (CPMs based on viewable ads) and more insight into viewability rates overall, and these developments are a step in the right direction for many advertisers. But there’s another side to the coin of higher viewability, one that not every marketer may consider – you get what you pay for – higher viewability means higher CPMs. But that isn’t the end of the world, far from it, because that higher CPM is buying you better placements that will get your ad seen by a lot more people.


Before we get into why the CPMs start to climb with high viewability, let’s break down the quick basics of what viewability means (just in case you need a refresher).

> What is it? | Viewability is 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 onscreen for one second or more to be considered viewable.

> Why is it important? | If an ad goes unseen, it’s ineffective in raising awareness for your brand or driving traffic to your site (duh).

So with the above in mind, it is easy to understand why viewability is important to advertisers; it is a way of validating whether their ads have a chance to be effective.


If you want your ads to have the highest chance to be seen, you have to pay for the privilege. Which makes sense – let’s look at a real-world example. If you’re buying billboard space, you’re going to be paying more for a placement in Times Square than a stretch of dusty road on the interstate. You won’t get many arguments about that – it’s just common sense. The same applies to digital ad placements – if you want your ad to be seen by more people, you’re going to have to pay a bit more. Digital advertising is built on auctions and every advertiser has their price, and a successfully purchased placement is the result of one advertiser willing to pay more than the rest.

So if viewability is important to you (and it should be) then you should be comfortable spending a bit more. You’re putting yourself in the market for ad placements that are coveted, and will have a price that reflects it. Let’s look at some of the factors that contribute to the higher cost.

> Over 50% of Ads Aren’t Viewable | According to Google, 56% of ads served online are never seen. If you want to ensure your ads aren’t part of that group, chances are you’re going to pay for it.

> Highly Viewable Inventory is Rare | If you only want to advertise on sites with a viewability rate of 70% or greater, 80% of total available inventory online is eliminated. That means inventory in that range carries a more expensive price tag – if you want your ads to be given a higher guarantee of being viewable, you’ll need to be ready to spend. It’s just the law of supply and demand; limited inventory combined with higher demand makes for premium prices.

> Higher Viewability Means Higher CTR | 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%. Based on that math, the higher the viewability rate, the better chance you have in making a conversion.

> It’s on Every Marketer’s Radar | In an April 2016 survey of digital advertising professionals, 97% of them listed viewability as a concern. Of that 97%, 29% said they are extremely concerned with it. These types of numbers speak to the demand for highly viewable inventory – if it’s on every marketer’s radar, your budget will be competing with everyone else, including some heavy hitters.

With the value viewability offers, coupled with the demand and limited supply, it’s a no-brainer that CPMs rise. By paying a higher CPM, you’re putting yourself in the running to lock in strong placements that will help drive traffic to your site.


If you’re hesitant to up your bid to take advantage of highly viewable inventory, know that you’re not only driving better performance for your current campaign – you’re setting up future campaigns for success as well.

Higher viewability ratings mean more valuable insights into your audience because you are eliminating the opportunity for fraud or bots to inflate your true performance. While viewability isn’t a panacea for all digital ad fraud, it does remove the chance your reporting will pick up on ads that were never seen. What you’re left with are metrics that are driven by real people, giving you learnings on what works with them and what doesn’t. You can adjust your creative and messaging accordingly, knowing your edits are being influenced by real people.


If you want to compete for highly-viewable inventory, you should be prepared to bid the right way. That means getting comfortable with paying a bit more than you’re used to. It’s considered generally strong advice – Google recommends bidding higher when it comes to chasing highly viewable inventory, saying that using a higher bid “is usually more effective for winning these more valuable types of impressions.”

So the next time you’re setting a CPM for your campaign, remember that you may have to set it a bit higher if you’re after highly viewable inventory. It’s natural to get a bit gun-shy, but just know that it’s the right move in ensuring your budget is well spent, and your campaign performance is strong.