#MustReadMonday: Viewability- It’s about time we saw the benefit of Brand Display

Mark Stubbs, Display Account Director for MEC UK, deep dives into the topical subject of Viewability; How it can can be a huge selling point for online display and how it should be a key KPI on all brand campaigns


 “Why am I paying for ads that that my audience didn’t see?”

…is the ‘question du jour’ from clients to agencies, and in turn, agencies to media owners.

It’s a difficult one to answer in a succinct manner – hence a need for a deep-dive blog post! But once you step back from the blindingly simple premise and amusingly convoluted answers/excuses, I believe it actually offers the best opportunity for brand campaigns online since formats moved past the banner.

Not to dismiss the heated diatribe from planner/buyers and clients alike- I completely agree that the current delivery of viewable impressions in the online marketplace isn’t acceptable, and some of the worst cases are equivalent to fraud. The standard set by the IAB has done very little to reassure anyone and exasperates discussions when raised as a benchmark with clients. However, it is a reflection of the industry average and has helped mobilise all sides of the marketplace into trying to improve this.

Whilst the market is in agreement that we want to improve viewability figures, the typical measures applied to digital media (even as secondary KPI’s) are reflected in “cost per X or Y” measures. However, improving viewability scores through enhanced positions on sites, or scaling back the amount of poorer quality inventory is bound to lead to an initial increase in CPM, which could see increases against these metrics. In a marketplace that is increasingly being traded in a biddable fashion, driving viewability scores above the norm could become costly as more and more brands outbid each other for a limited pot of inventory (something very rare in the online space!).

This is very important for brand campaigns though. The impact we deliver against the right audience is the most important aspect of the campaign, and there are currently factors that limit this; the discrepancy in viewability figures between ad serving technologies; where placements sit on the sites, and the load times on creative are all obstacles we are trying to overcome… but whilst this continues, there are still solutions that can benefit brand campaigns. The initial win is through identifying increased viewability scores as a key objective but also buying on a cost per engagement, cost per completed view for video, or a cost per viewable impression metric offers a great opportunity for brands to deliver their message and know that their audience had a fitting opportunity to see.

Brand campaigns online are regularly assessed with ill-fitting KPI’s- CTR% being the most common- whereas the strength of digital marketing is the targeting. This should facilitate greatly improved cost effective reach and give brands the opportunity to have an impact on the right audience. Whilst the conversation around viewability is currently defensive in tone, digital brand planners and buyers should be embracing this dialogue, move clients past the industry benchmarks and make viewability a key KPI on campaigns.

The big win in brand terms is that digital media can deliver clients 100% opportunity to see against their target audience. Whilst the conversation around viewability has led to some heated debates in the digital marketplace, it has offered an insight into how we can turn a perceived weakness into a strength.

There isn’t a 100% opportunity to see in traditional media and clients are fully aware of this. The reach and frequency figures that still dominate brand campaign reporting illustrate the potential figures that could be delivered, and marketers who know their media will regularly push for “early front half” in press or “position in break” on TV so as to maximise the delivery they can gain- sometimes paying a premium to do so.

This pragmatic understanding hasn’t been applied to digital but I think it offers as a clue as to the way forward. CPM’s may well rise to facilitate better (viewable!) environments for online advertising but the reporting of viewability figures should allow digital media to expand on its list of strengths for brand campaigns:

– Accurate targeting

– Engaging and interactive formats

– The highest opportunity to see of any media.

In acknowledging the issue and working to rectify it, we may well have stumbled across a benefit we didn’t know we had. Brand campaigns are very broad and diverse in nature, including the message or impact we want consumers to take from them, but we all agree that people actually seeing our ads is the only way to elicit a reaction. In addressing viewability and changing the metrics for brand campaigns, you can now get what you pay for, and that’s great news for clients.

If you’d like to see more of Mark you can contact him through Twitter via @MECUK