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Advertisers are wasting spend on unseen ads - viewability problems need to be tackled, report says

The advertising industry must develop improved viewability measuring tools and settle on an agreed standard or advertisers will continue to waste budget on adverts that are never seen, a whitepaper from digital advertising firm Quantcast has warned.

Whitepaper: Quantcast warns that spend is wasted on unseen ads

The Road To Viewability study examined 100 million page impressions across 35 campaigns between August and October last year in a bid to build a clearer picture on the viewability problem which, according to Quantcast product marketing lead Rebecca Muir, is resulting in wasted ad spend. However, the first hurdle currently facing industry is the lack of knowledge about viewability and the need for action, she argued.

“There’s still an awful lot of work to be done to get people to understand what viewability is, why it’s important and why they should be thinking about improving it, why it’s not ok to just live with low viewability,” Muir said.

“There are definitely cases right now where advertisers have poor viewability but decision makers have absolutely no idea, and that can be right down to day-to-day decision makers like media buyers right up to MDs and CEOs.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau currently defines a viewable display impression as an ad where at least 50 per cent of it loads on to a page and is displayed for at least one second. However, according to Quantcast’s study, sources show that up to 1.8 trillion ads in 2012 were paid for but not actually seen, and Muir says a forthcoming standard set by the Media Rating Council (MRC) will be a welcome development.

“Measuring viewability needs to be standardised,” she continued. “The reason we don’t yet have that is simply down to the rapid evolution in digital. Once there is a standard in place, advertisers and publishers really need to pay attention to their viewability and not be afraid to step up and improve it. At the end of the day, they’re wasting budget if they don’t tackle this problem.”

Recommendations in the whitepaper include building viewability into campaign agreements and setting realistic viewability goals. For example, the study encountered problems measuring viewability on ads from a real-time bidding (RTB) environment because of the speed of the process, but the results it did gather showed it was “difficult to achieve greater than 75 per cent viewability with RTB ads due to the limited amount of inventory at or above that level of viewability”.

However, Muir said that processes like RTB are “not going to go away” and investment in programmatic will continue to increase, so the key is improving measurability and keeping campaign goals realistic.

Trying to create a standard is hard,” Muir added. “The other challenge is that advertising is now bought in real-time. The online advertising industry and ad technology has really evolved so quickly that measuring viewability has become very complex.”

You can download the whitepaper here and view the full findings

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