“The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
Today’s column is written by Grant Brown, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Rant.
Viewability has surged as a No. 1 priority for media companies this year as brands and agencies increasingly push for proof that consumers saw their ads. And for good reason: A recent comScore study reported that Kellogg’s realized a 75% increase in sales lift by increasing its viewability rates by 40%.
Instead of seeing viewability as a nightmare and threat to current revenue, publishers shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture opportunity: Supporting viewable ads will not only create a better digital advertising ecosystem in the long run, but also open up fresh, reliable streams of long-term revenue.
As networks kick into high gear for upfronts, for example, publishers that proactively redesign and optimize sites for viewability can expand their ability to take larger chunks of brands’ market share from TV.
It’s not a simple task but the payoff can be potentially huge, especially if publishers use the process, from beginning to end, as an opportunity to innovate and lay the groundwork for new business.
Think Out Of The Box: New Solutions That Monetize Viewability
While viewability sounds overwhelming to accommodate because site layouts and behaviors widely vary, it clearly has publishers thinking differently about their advertising solutions.
For example, in an age where infinite scroll-based sites are becoming increasingly popular, Wired came up with a 300-by-600-pixel display ad on its article pages that remains anchored in place as readers scroll down an article to ensure it remains in view. This kind of innovation will become widely appreciated and accepted by brand advertisers that see viewability as tickets to the game.
It remains a major debate as to whether viewable ads could immediately command higher prices. Ari Bluman, GroupM’s chief digital investment officer, best articulated the future of buy-side demand: “If you can get me a viewable ad that performs and I can verify that, we want that. And I believe supply and demand will take over.”
In the long term, viewability will most certainly raise the bar as a reflection of the increased value it brings marketers.
Evaluate Site Layout And Ad Positioning Against Engagement Metrics
It’s not necessarily true that an ad that appears above the fold has better viewability than an ad that appears below the fold. In the Wired example above, ads can stay fixed on a page as users scroll down. How users interact with websites widely varies by publisher – think of how users would engage differently with MSNBC.com vs. ESPN.com – so it’s up to each publisher to incorporate intimate knowledge of their users’ interactive behaviors as they evaluate viewability.
To help, analytics partners, such as Moat and Crazy Egg, provide valuable intelligence around where users spend most of their time on site and more advanced measurements, such as scroll metrics. By leveraging this kind of data, publishers can make site and ad unit optimizations that better align with increased viewability rates.
Monitor Viewability Performance Post-Redesign
As with any recently launched project, it’s imperative to monitor progress out of the gates against benchmark performance to gauge success and optimize accordingly. With site redesigns, performance tracking starts with diligence at the get-go: Decide exactly what will be measured.
Publishers can track viewability rates by ad slot, alongside engagement rates, such as click-through rates, percentage of users hovering over ads or time spent hovering over ads. By keeping a close eye on these metrics, publishers will have a surefire way to tell whether their redesign initiatives were successful and, most importantly, which areas can be improved.
Viewability certainly presents off-putting challenges for publishers as they re-evaluate and optimize their sites for the future. But the process doesn’t have to be a downer. By methodically thinking through how viewability can serve as a conduit for innovation and revenue opportunities, and putting trackable metrics behind it, publishers will put themselves in a comfy position for long-term success.