Why adtech should use engagement metrics to combat poor visibility

Is optimizing your media buying based on viewability rates enough to ensure ROI on your ad spend? How can you be sure a user is even viewing your ad? They could have opened another tab or stopped paying attention to their device. We believe the answer to poor ad visibility lies in engagement metrics. Only then can you be 100% sure your ad has been viewed by your target audience.

Amanda Dalbjörn via Unsplash

For years, adtech has battled with the challenge of ad visibility. Despite efforts across the industry to develop a common standard and work towards better viewability rates, 32% of respondents in a survey carried out amongst digital media professionals still cited poor viewability levels as a key concern when running their ad campaigns.

Why is viewability such a worry for them? Simply put: if you’re buying your media on a CPM basis, but in 50% of those impressions your ad isn’t even visible, that’s 50% of your media budget wasted. That’s why most brands are now optimizing their media spend by only purchasing impressions where viewability is guaranteed. The current industry standard for viewability is defined as requiring 100% of the ad to be in view for 2 seconds or more. This is already a vast improvement on the previous definition which only required 50% of the ad’s pixels to be in view. But is this enough to be sure your ad is successful?

What can affect your ad’s viewability?

There are many factors that contribute to whether or not a user has seen your ad. Google identified 5 key reasons for poor ad visibility in this infographic. Among them was the placement of the ad. They point out that being above the fold isn’t necessarily a sure sign that your ad is viewable – in fact they claim that only 68% of ads above the fold are viewable. Google believes, though, that the best placement of an ad is just above the fold, especially in comparison to ones at the top of the page, such as leaderboards. This is hardly surprising given that as soon as users start to scroll down the header will no longer be in view. Instead Google suggests advertisers should place a higher value on vertical units as they remain viewable for much longer.

Another factor greatly affecting viewability rates is ad-load speed. We’ve discussed this in detail before and demonstrated that since 53% of mobile site users leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load, it’s imperative that your ad loads quickly and efficiently. Imagine paying for an impression but your ad is too heavy to load, which slows down the rest of the page to the point that the user becomes fed up with waiting and bounces off the site without seeing your ad. For bulky, cumbersome HTML5 ads, the writing is on the wall. Advertisers need to move to lightweight, efficient ads, such as the ones they can create with Nexd, if they want their viewability to increase.

One more thing to consider is the site on which your ads are served. According to Chartbeat, 54% of all pageviews receive less than 15 seconds of attention. If this time increases to one minute, viewability goes up by over half, from 37% to 57%. They also claim that users with 15 or more seconds of active exposure time to an ad had a 25% higher brand recall than those reading for 10 seconds or less. These metrics explain why a page on Forbes, for example, which has high dwell times, is considered premium media inventory and why Forbes is able to charge a much higher rate for their ad placements.

Why marketers shouldn’t only focus on viewability

Is this right, though? Should advertisers rely so heavily on viewability rates to optimize their ad spend? At Nexd, we believe that viewability is only half of the story. After all, even if your ad is in the best position possible, on a premium website and loads at lightspeed, how can you be sure the impression you paid for has resulted in a user viewing your ad?

The frank answer is: you can’t. Your user may have opened another tab in the meanwhile or may have moved away from their computer or mobile device. Google is very clear on the subject in the support pages of their viewability product Active View: 

“Active View can tell you when ads are viewable, but it can’t guarantee that a user is looking at the screen at that time.”

Not helpful. The only way to be absolutely sure your ad has been viewed, and therefore valued, by a user is by tracking their engagement with your ad. Despite this, adtech remains fixated on two KPIs: impressions and clicks.

At Nexd, we believe both advertisers and publishers need to start paying more attention to engagement metrics. Engagement doesn’t necessarily have to mean clicks, it can also include commenting and sharing. In this way advertisers can be sure their ad has been seen by their target audience and, equally, publishers can be sure that the ad they served isn’t considered annoying by their user base.

At its heart, advertising should be a conversation between a brand and a user. So often, due to poor creative, the advertiser initiates the conversation and receives no engagement from the user. We at Nexd are committed to enabling our clients to produce ads that are creative and engaging. For this reason, we offer over 50 desktop and mobile engaging ad templates that require no coding on the part of the advertiser whatsoever. Check out our formats here.

What’s more, we provide detailed tracking and metrics to ensure our clients know the ROI of their ad campaigns. Our Campaign Manager is built on a rigorously monitored analytics infrastructure, enabling you to understand which parts of your ad are the most effective, using per-asset interaction data.

So the next time you’re asked about your ad visibility, remember that viewability is only one side of the story. Engagement metrics are a much more powerful way to optimize your ad campaigns and are a more reliable way to determine the success of your ad.