Optimizing for impact, not viewability

By solely focusing on, or optimizing towards, viewability, we might be damaging our campaigns’ chances of real success.

The digital ad industry has been chasing viewability, with varying degrees of success, for some time. Verifying that campaigns have the opportunity to be seen in a medium which, now more than ever, has an interest in absolute transparency and accountability, is of utmost importance.

However, we also need to collectively recognize that viewability is only a gatekeeper to impact, a stepping stone in brand consumer interaction which reports media efficiency but not engagement or effectiveness. While it is crucial, viewability measurement offers no insight into success against a campaign’s actual objectives, which are more likely to be linked to brand building or response metrics, than delivering the most viewable campaign ever.

InSkin’s recent visual engagement project investigated the relationship between viewability, visual attention and impact. The findings (available for download at inskinmedia.com/insights) highlight that viewability does a fantastic job at ruling out completely ineffective inventory, demonstrating that in-view time should become a much more important factor in campaign measurement that can be used as an indicator for a campaign’s potential to make an impact.

Here are eight tips on how to leverage viewability as a vehicle for campaign effectiveness:

1. Ensure that all partners are using the same viewability standards

The official MRC guideline is that 50% of an ad needs to be in the viewport for one second (30% for non-standard ads). It’s not perfect, but it’s a starting point to ensure consistent measurement and comparability between campaigns.

2. Use third-party viewability tracking

There are a host of Media Rating Council accredited viewability vendors, many of whom now also include viewability tracking on mobile. Use one and insist that everyone that you work with does as well.

3. Assume that anything non-viewable was not seen

No non-viewable ads in our study were looked at for even one second, so it’s safe to assume that if it wasn’t officially viewable, it wasn’t seen. Among viewable ads, it’s easier for smaller formats to meet the viewability threshold, but they attract less visual attention. Large, viewable formats deliver the best visual engagement. Therefore, blindly optimizing towards viewability without taking context into account can be counter-productive.

4. Focus on in-view time

Online ads need to be viewable for 14 seconds to be looked at for one second. This is important, because the longer the visual engagement time, the higher the ad recall, therefore the more likely it is that your campaign’s true purpose of conveying a message was realized.

5. Select your ad formats carefully

Intrusive ad formats are among the most annoying elements on the internet, but high-impact, rich media ad formats don’t have to be intrusive. In fact, they are proven to deliver much longer visual attention times, and therefore ad impact, than even larger standard formats.

6. Invest in creativity

After format selection, creative execution is the second biggest differentiator in visual engagement. Make sure you understand the full creative scope of your chosen ad format, and involve your creative agency as early as possible in your campaign plans to fully exploit its potential.

7. Invest in quality environments

Digital ads perform better in uncluttered, contextually relevant environments. Ads in cluttered environments may be viewable, but attract up to a third less visual engagement.

Make sure you know where your media is running: agree black and whitelists with media owners, avoid user-generated content, target editorial content and do not waste media budget on blind networks.

8. Experiment with eye-tracking

Several vendors offer scalable eye-tracking solutions, where you can look beyond viewability and track a creative’s potential for visual engagement before you run it. Investment in making sure that your campaign assets, messaging, logo and CTA placement are working as hard as they can will pay off.

Viewability is a critical step in digital advertising’s developing maturity. We need to embrace it, understand its purpose as a baseline for ad validation, and recognize how viewability data can be analyzed to build a picture of an ad’s potential for visual engagement and opportunity to influence, not simply its opportunity to be seen.