Just because an ad is “in-view,” that doesn’t mean it's effective.
On the contrary, time spent is often a better indicator of ad effectiveness than percentage of pixels in-view on a page.
That's according to a new viewability study from Interpublic Group (IPG) and measurement firm Integral Ad Science. The report, “Putting Science Behind The Standards,” surveyed 10,000 consumer respondents across 189 ad scenarios using eye-tracking and post-exposure surveys to gauge factors like brand recall.
“We didn’t want to just do a case study on viewability. We wanted real, projectable results across varying degrees of viewability, advertisers and formats,” said Kara Manatt, VP of consumer research strategy for the holding company's IPG Media Lab, which oversaw the study along with IPG's Cadreon trading desk.
The study broke ads down by format – banners, rich media and video – and factored in contextual attributes around creative (e.g., sound on/off for video ads and ads with brand logos vs. without logos), industry vertical (e.g., CPG, auto) and page layout (cluttered vs. uncluttered).
The key finding: The duration of an ad exposure had a greater bearing on overall effectiveness than whether or not it could be seen at all. This finding was a critical discovery, according to Manatt, since the industry has for some time standardized around percent of pixels in-view as defined by the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) standard for viewability.
That standard: To be considered "in-view," 50% of an ad's pixels must be in-view for one second for display formats and 50% of pixels in-view for two seconds for video.
Ads that exceeded MRC standards for viewability, not surprisingly, had a significant impact on effectiveness. Out of 51% of people who viewed an ad at the MRC threshold, only 17% recalled it. Ads that exceeded MRC standards nearly doubled the chance for recall at 32%.
But surprisingly, 17% still recalled ads that fell below the MRC threshold.
IPG determined that because the MRC standard consists of two dimensions, even if the percentage of pixels in-view fell below the suggested threshold, if the time spent was longer than the threshold suggested it enhanced overall ad effectiveness and influenced recall.
For instance, when certain formats were viewed for four to seven seconds instead of the baseline threshold, brand recall improved significantly.
“I was surprised to see that time in-view seemed to be so much more important than number of pixels in-view,” Manatt added. “That’s not to say percentage of pixels aren’t important because you can’t have a decent impact with creative if there aren’t enough pixels, but I was surprised to see this discrepancy between percentage in-view and time in-view.”
IPG and Integral Ad Science also uncovered certain nuances around formats. For instance, videos only 75% in-view still made a large impact, particularly if the sound was on and there was a stimulating visual or brand logo at the outset of the video.
However this was not the case for standard display, which was measurably more effective after the format was 75% in-view.
There are creative best practices that when followed, improve the chance of ad recall across formats.
“You can feature a striking visual or brand logo at the top where even if it’s not a full 100% or even 75% in-view, makes an impact if the ad is rendered for 10 seconds,” Manatt said. “Yes, the higher viewability you have, the more impact an ad will have, but viewability should not be your key performance indicator. Your end goal should be improving awareness or perception, or influencing purchase intent or some kind of conversion.”