From The Bully Pulpit: Google Allows Marketers To Purchase Only Viewable Ad Impressions

From The Bully Pulpit: Google Allows Marketers To Purchase Only Viewable Ad Impressions

Thousands of television screens at gyms go unwatched. Hundreds of USA Today newspapers get dropped at hotel doorsteps and go unread. Radio ads get played, but it’s hard to tell who is really listening.

For decades, advertisers using legacy media have had to answer a tough question from clients: is my ad really being seen?

Fortunately, unlike in other mediums, digital media offers the rare opportunity to measure ads at a granular level. The “ad viewability” metric is one of the hottest discussion points in digital marketing and yesterday Google became the largest network to allow marketers to purchase only viewable impressions. This means that an impression in which 50% of the ad was viewed for at least 1 second, qualifies as viewed. Current research suggests that ad viewability is close to 46% — so Google’s move is a huge step forward in transparency from an ad network that currently generates revenue from all ad impressions.

At BPI we closely monitor trends in ad viewability and refined our ad buying strategy to focus on the highest quality networks and placements. Here’s our take on the latest viewability discussion:

  • Viewability isn’t always the most important metric: Particularly for direct response campaigns (e.g. email signups or donations), we at BPI have bypassed the “viewability” dilemma for years by purchasing media on a cost-per-click or a cost-per-action basis.  It’s not particularly helpful for our clients if we know an ad was seen, but it still didn’t drive an action.
  • Marketers should hold themselves to a higher standard than simply delivering a “Viewable Impression”:  The typical standard for a viewable impression is “50% of the ad is viewable for at least one second”. It’s not a very high bar – and just knowing that an impression was “viewable” does not mean it was necessarily effective.

A more sophisticated way to look at viewability is by ad exposure – or how long ads are typically viewed. At BPI, we pay close attention to this metric in order to craft advertising that gets a message across during a user’s actual attention span.

We hope to see more publishers join Google and openly offer viewability metrics to their customers.  However, for viewability to truly advance digital advertising, it’s important that it becomes one metric of effectiveness — not the sole determinant.