"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by John Yang, vice president of platform services at Bidtellect.
Once deemed a fleeting trend, viewability now has a place in almost every digital advertising campaign, regardless of device, format or unit. It is the metric that all publishers and vendors want to accurately quantify with their own inventory and is quickly becoming a standard requirement. If a user can’t actually see the ad, then what other post-impression metrics really matter?
Although the opportunities for advertisers to invest in digital have expanded significantly, key stakeholders have still been slow to adopt more sophisticated, actionable metrics that intelligently determine return on investment. Instead of post-click engagements, we still rely on click-through rate. Instead of multitouch attribution, we still rely on post-view conversions.
Is viewability simply a continuation of the old or part of the new?
The Media Ratings Council (MRC) defines a static ad as viewable if 50% or more of ad pixels are in view for at least one continuous second. For video ads, 50% of pixels must be in view for two continuous seconds. The industry has set a standard, and both advertisers and publishers are adopting them.
With any new metric that is introduced to the industry, there is also gamesmanship among publishers to beat their competition or advertiser’s expectations. But have you ever gone to a website where there are four banner ads above the fold, all considered to be viewable? Without proper due diligence, buyers can simply look at the numbers and decide that this is a great site to put on the plan because it meets their viewability requirements.
When trading desks and demand-side platforms (DSPs) aggregate thousands of these type of publishers in the programmatic landscape, user experiences become crowded with bad advertising and corrupting the value of viewability. How are buyers supposed to sift through the noise to extract its true value?
Viewability is a useful metric that is only valuable when marketers recognize its true objective: as a proxy for a user’s attention. “Attention is currency,” author Chris Brogan once said. A viewable ad is more likely to capture a user’s attention, and when this happens, marketers create the connection between the brand and user that is the ultimate payoff in the form of engagement, conversion or any other post-impression metric.
But in order to get the user’s attention, marketers must first understand the user’s journey. Why does the user visit the site? What does the user hope to gain from visiting the site? What type of information would the user respond to?
Viewability In Different Environments
The interesting thing about banner ads is that in any content site, they will live within the outskirts of the user’s attention. They may be viewable, but how often are consumers paying attention to banner ads in their user journey? The user’s eyesight gravitates toward the reason they are visiting the site: to consume content.
This is why viewability as a metric is so much more valuable to a marketer in native advertising, content distribution and paid social than in other forms of digital advertising. These content experiences exist within the “view” of the user journey because they are already in the environment where the user is paying the most attention.
In this viewable environment, brands can create a much more robust, finely targeted and intimate connection with users in their content journey. A great environment that brings together users, content and attention is Facebook, a long-standing leader in native advertising and content marketing.
Facebook understands the connection between viewability and attention and tries to deliver only relevant promoted ads in a user’s news feed. It is the user journey and the attention the user affords Facebook that is of the utmost value.
Outside the walled gardens of Facebook, advertisers seek an environment for their brand to create an emotional connection with their target user. To drive this emotional connection, the user must first pay attention. This is where native advertising and content marketing play a role in their content distribution strategies. When brands can capture the currency of a user’s attention, performance metrics – archaic or new – are a more accurate indication of consumer awareness.
Viewability is a means to an end. As marketers continue to rely on viewability to determine campaign success, it is critical that they understand that viewability is only the first step toward understanding user behavior. It is what happens after content is in view that will provide the richest insights into how to meaningfully connect with audiences. This is when viewability truly matters and why attention is currency for marketers.
So is viewability archaic or new? If marketers are determining viewability based on the publisher websites overcrowded with banners, then it should be considered a thing of the past. But the marketers that are considering what happens once the user’s attention is captured are moving toward the true value of viewability.