Going Beyond Viewability

June 30, 2019 Laura Smous

It’s been six years since Comscore shocked the advertising world by releasing a report, based on research from thousands of global campaigns, revealing 54% of display ads are never viewed. Comscore’s findings contributed to making viewability an industry-wide obsession, and, since then, in some ways, not much has changed. With ad fraud remaining front and center, marketers continue to demand more visibility into their metrics, leaving viewability still a hot—and sometimes contentious—topic.

What is viewability?

Marketers’ rush towards viewability forced the advertising industry to standardize what even counts as a viewable ad. Simply put, viewability—or viewable impressions—is the metric marketers use to track what percentage of their digital ads are actually viewed by real people. The International Advertising Bureau (IAB) classifies a display ad as viewable, when it appears at least 50% on screen, for more than one second.

Why does viewability matter?

On the surface, the desire for viewability is obvious. Marketers know effective ads are crucial to growth, and whether or not an ad is seen is vital to whether or not the ad is effective. Advertisers want to ensure their valuable digital spend is reaching real humans. 

Further, as marketing measurement and attribution has become one of the top priorities for marketers over the past three years, more advertisers want to know how many people actually saw their ad, in their quest to understand that ad’s efficacy.

AdRoll’s view on viewability

For over 11 years, AdRoll has always focused on advertising that delivers the best business results for marketers. To continuously make this a reality for our customers, we think constantly about what makes ads work better. We know viewability is one important ingredient in making ads work better, and we want your ads to be viewed to help you grow. 

At the same time, we don’t want marketers to focus singularly on this important, metric, like a holy grail for performance. While it might seem that working towards 100% ad viewability will lead to the best performance, there is more to the story. 

Ad viewability: one piece of the puzzle

Naturally, everyone craves 100% viewability. The reality is a limited supply of predictably viewable ad inventory and variety of ad spaces mean achieving 100% viewability comes with a premium price tag. Rather than limit our customers only to expensive ad impressions, AdRoll built a better solution.

Over the years, programmatic (automated) advertising helped make viewability prediction and measurement much easier. It also opened the opportunity for us to be much less rigid in how we bid for ads.

That flexibility is one of AdRoll’s unique specialties. We log over 4 trillion performance data points every day, and we’ve matched over 1.2 billion online profiles to data and devices in our IntentMap—spanning every industry across the globe. Because AdRoll has the most performance data of any independent ad tech player, our platform is able to predict viewability, before you buy. 

The AdRoll Growth Platform can also do much more, including leveraging 34 million+ signals and making  2.5 million predictions per second to lower your costs and boost performance. This means you don’t have to limit yourself to the most expensive ads or the users you happen to be able to reach, with those impressions. Instead, you can leverage all the available factors, in a way that leads to better business outcomes. In fact, we make over 80 billion AI predictions daily that increase engagement and conversions for our customers.

Among the many other important factors our platform considers, when optimizing your ads are:

  • The chance that a person (cookie) will take the action you want
  • Your chosen goals, whether that be CPC, CPM, or CPA
  • The lowest price we can bid—and win—for a given ad impression

Each plays a big role in making sure you have the most effective ads. Instead of cutting out a huge swath of opportunity with the limited lens of viewability only, which often overlooks valuable mid-article or recommended post ads, we curate your options and make the most informed choice possible for you, giving you all the effectiveness with none of the work.

Keep your eyes on the performance prize

To illustrate this point, imagine Diana’s Hair Salon is interested in using digital ads to grow their business. Here is their situation:

  • Goal – Retarget as many site visitors as possible to grow appointments
  • KPI’s – Hope to stay around $10-15 cost, per appointment
  • Budget – Spend $1000/month

Diana cares a lot about viewability because she wants to limit wasted budget. Many ad vendors would simply cherry-pick the ad impressions she bids on, meaning she would have to choose between reaching fewer people or paying more for each appointment. This would limit the reach of possible impressions Diane has to reach potential customers—and drive up their cost.

If Diana wants to reach as many people as possible, her costs might look like this:

Bidding Focused on Viewability

Because she is only bidding on ad impressions with a really high predicted viewability, she will have to pay more to reach as many people as possible. 

Now let’s look at AdRoll’s method:

AdRoll Bidding Technology

AdRoll’s method evaluates ad impressions at every level. In the highest viewability bands, you only have to bid on the most cost-effective opportunities. In the lowest bands, our platform helps you find golden nuggets, without risking ad spend unnecessarily. 

A simple way to think about this is to imagine an impression we think is 100% likely to be viewed and worth $10; in that case, we would bid $10. Now, imagine the exact same scenario, except we think it's 10% likely to be viewed. Under those circumstances, we would reduce our bid to $1. In other words, we conceptually “discount” the bid for you, based on the likelihood of being viewed versus what we think it is worth if it is viewed.

At the end of the day, AdRoll keeps the cost per appointment lower because we keep your reach broad and price the likelihood of view intelligently into every ad we buy. For most companies, including Diana’s Hair Salon, it can make all the difference for revenue and growth.

What’s next for viewability

If you’re focusing on 100% viewability for your ads, now is the time to start considering the broader picture. Sign up for a free AdRoll account today, and take advantage of artificial intelligence to lower your costs and boost performance.

About the Author

Laura Smous

Laura Smous, Director of Product Marketing, AdRoll

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