Display ads visible on a laptop screen

Ever since display advertising burst onto the scene, there have been questions about its ‘viewability’. Some analysts – particularly those with a vested interest in traditional ad channels, such as print and television – have always claimed that an unacceptably high proportion of these ads simply aren’t seen by the people they are targeted at.

However, a study has recently been carried out that is likely to come as music to the ears of display advertising agencies around the world. The research, whilst acknowledging that online video display ads do still have their problems when it comes to viewability, suggests that this is almost as much of an issue for one of the longest-established mediums of all – TV.

The study that shows display and TV viewability are on a par

The study was carried out by IPG Media Lab and TVision over a six-month period, closely monitoring the behaviour during commercial breaks of a cross-section of television audiences. If we assume that this lengthy and in-depth research process meant that the data gathered was reliable and is representative of the nation’s viewing habits, it makes for very interesting reading!

Overall, it was found that 29% of TV adverts were not ‘viewable’, which is only a marginally better return than the 31% equivalent figure attributed to digital video ads. The similarity of these results might be surprising at first, but that may just be because we all tend to take television for granted as such a tried-and-tested, authoritative and effective channel compared to the online ad space, which is still seen by many as an unregulated ‘wild west’. If this study is correct, though, it seems that both old and new marketing methods are facing the same barriers to customer engagement.

To give these results some context, the researchers classed TV ads as not being viewable if the viewer was out of the room for at least two seconds whilst the ad was being aired. This is comparable to the online viewability benchmark, which is usually defined as over 50% of a standard display ad being visible for one second or longer or a video ad playing continuously for two seconds or longer.

Will this have a big impact on TV ad spending?

This research may have caused a few raised eyebrows among TV ad buyers and their clients, but there are a few factors which mean the study is unlikely to affect the channel’s popularity dramatically.

First and foremost, let’s not forget the study suggests that over 70% of TV ads are still viewed, which is not a figure to be sniffed at. It could also be argued that the way viewability was measured in this case was on the strict side – just because someone was out of the room for two seconds whilst the ad was showing, does that necessarily mean they didn’t pay attention to the 28 seconds or more t they did see?

In addition, the researchers noted that some types of ad over-indexed in terms of how much they were watched, with commercials for pharmaceutical products, for instance, recording 75% viewability. It was also acknowledged that viewability rates can differ significantly based on a range of other factors, including the length of the ad, when it is shown and what it’s promoting. Long story short: there’s no need for companies who think their TV campaigns have worked well in the past to panic, as there’s every chance they still are and will continue to do so in future.

How to maximise display ad viewability

Regardless of everything we’ve said above, we know that TV ads simply aren’t right for some businesses and, as such, it is common for small and medium-sized companies to put a decent chunk of their marketing budget into online display campaigns – often incorporating a digital video strand – instead. Inevitably, though, business owners will want to know they are investing wisely, and there can be no denying that display has had its share of bad press over the years.

If you are cautious about spending money on any kind of display campaign, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Google Display Network now offers a way for marketers to ensure their ads are seen. Viewable cost-per-thousand impression targeting (vCPM) has been around for a while and gives advertisers the option of only paying for their ad placements when they meet Google’s viewability criteria. In practice, this means that you may have to raise your budget to maintain coverage as CPMs are generally higher than non-viewable impressions.  That said the flipside of this is that the impressions you are paying for are guaranteed to have been seen and as a result, users are more likely to engage with them so you should see engagement metrics improve.

Using viewable impression targeting is particularly suitable for clients who wish to boost their brand awareness among genuine potential leads, and this certainly chimes with our experience of vCPM. We recently switched to a viewable impression targeting strategy for one of our biggest clients, and the results have been striking. Although we did see a 25% rise in costs per impression compared to the standard model, we found that there was much more value in the impressions that were served, with a noticeable improvement in engagement rates – and, whilst keeping a lid on costs is obviously important, the tightest marketing budget in the world is useless if it doesn’t let you reach any customers!

Still not convinced? Talk to Bluesoup!

Are you worried that you’re wasting money on an ineffective display ad strategy? Give the friendly team at Bluesoup a call today or fill in our contact form and we’ll be happy to start planning a campaign for you that is expertly targeted, efficiently delivered and great value for money.