Q Thoughts

Is Viewability Limiting Your Marketing Wish List?


With the holiday season fast approaching, we’re in a good place to start compiling our marketing wish list. As our minds skip from one must-have (brand awareness!) to another (viewability!) to yet another (ROI!), it’s easy to lose sight of our priorities. So how can you best gauge what matters most to your marketing and advertising efforts? Well, you can start by rephrasing this aforementioned question, asking instead: What can I sacrifice to see the results that matter most to my goals?

It is critical to identify what is most important to you and to understand the trade-offs that come with trying to achieve multiple KPI’s.

Let’s take a deeper dive into viewability and discuss how focusing on it can often come at the expense of your primary objectives.  First off, what is viewability?

Viewability is an online advertising metric that aims to track impressions of digitally served ads that can actually be seen by human eyes.

Being seen is good for marketing, so viewability is key to all of my advertising initiatives, right?

Here is where things get a little tricky…There is no way to “know” with absolute certainty that an impression will actually be viewed by a user.  We can look at historical data for an opportunity and determine its average viewability, but past performance is not a perfect predictor of future return.  Do we want to throw out opportunities against high value users because there is a chance the impression might not be viewable?

Please don’t take away from this that we are against viewability…. We are not!  The concept of viewability makes total sense.  Why do you want to pay for an ad impression that isn’t seen by a user?   If your primary objective is branding and awareness, then sure, requesting high viewability rates, while expensive, can effectively make sense.  Your branding dollars are precious, and any impression that isn’t seen by a user could be considered waste.

BUT, and you knew this was coming, if your primary objective is a CPA or ROI there are a few nuances and challenges around measurability that need to be considered:

1) You’re paying a higher CPM for viewable impressions that are difficult for ad verification vendors to measure and impossible to guarantee.  While viewable impressions may convert slightly better, the increased costs typically erase any gains in efficiency resulting in higher CPA’s.

2) Because viewable inventory is not an unlimited resource, you are limiting your scale.

Let’s elaborate on the concept of measurability. Here at ownerIQ we are partnered with IAS, MOAT, and other vendors to internally measure viewability on the campaigns that we run.  We also work with  clients who utilize a different 3rd party vendor to measure viewability on their end.  We have a lot of data comparing the viewability metrics for a given campaign across multiple vendors.  What’s crazy is that in most cases we are seeing very significant discrepancies between what IAS is reporting for viewability and what the other respective vendors are reporting for the same exact campaign.

Here are some actual discrepancies we saw from actual campaigns run in the last 3 months:


Again, these are the same exact campaigns over the same exact time period! I am not going to make a statement about who is right or wrong on this. The far more important point is that if these vendors differ so greatly in determining if an impression is viewable or not, how can we truly trust any of them?

If your primary objective is getting users to take a desired action, you are best suited by allowing an intelligent machine with limitless reach to do the bulk of the work for you. By placing a viewability constraint on a campaign, you run the risk of missing out on high-value users chasing a metric where there is no consensus on how to measure it and there is no certainty at the time of bidding. Your best bet is to permit tested and true technology to prioritize highly valuable consumers based on their expected performance. Yes, there will be some waste…but that is an acceptable consequence of getting an impression in front of ALL high value users regardless of where they are on the web.

Until we as an industry are in a place to accurately measure “viewable impressions”, or even better “viewable conversions” thereby ensuring that your message was indeed seen and that the desired action was taken – it is far more important for advertisers to focus on messaging all high value users and not run the risk of sacrificing performance chasing an imperfect metric.

After all, holiday season matters – a lot – and it’s the worst time to risk losing your most important customers. The holidays are also a time for reflection, preparing you for those often fleeting resolutions. But not this year. This year, with the right strategy, you’ll be committed to what works.

Categories:Posts from 2016


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