1. Sales Tracking

Digital Media Accountability: Ad Viewability

ad viewability

Improving management and efficacy of digital marketing is fundamental to building brands and driving business results. The issues of ad viewability and ad fraud are still relevant, but the digital marketing industry has made great progress to develop an ecosystem worthy of trust.

In order for digital marketing efforts to make any impact, the ads must first have the opportunity to be viewed by consumers. Viewability means digitally served advertising that has the opportunity to be seen, which can vary among users depending on their behaviour on a site.

Until this past year, marketers essentially paid for all the display and video ads served on their behalf. Interestingly, Google published a viewability study last year, revealing that average publisher viewability is 50.2%.

Ad viewability

Hence, advertisers are spending billions on ads that do not load properly, or are placed in an area of the page that is never reached by the viewer. Improved viewability measurements are very valuable for advertisers since it removes some of the uncertainty behind buying online ads.


State of Ad Viewability 2015

Investing heavily in the “Making Measurement Make Sense” (3MS) project, the advertising industry has done a great job at addressing viewability issues. On December 16, 2014, IAB released the “State of Viewability Transaction 2015,” which offers guidance on how to manage the shift of digital media’s ‘audience currency’ to 100 percent viewability.

2015 Transaction Principles:

  1. Billing should be based on the number of served impressions during a campaign and these should be separated into two categories: measured and non-measured.
  2. Given the limitations of current technology and variances in measurement, it is realistic to expect 70 % and higher viewability in 2015.
  3. If a campaign does not achieve the 70 % threshold level, publishers will make-good with additional viewable impressions until the threshold is met. Hence, all paid measureable ad impression will be viewable at a threshold that both exceeds the minimum standard and falls within observed variances.
  4. All make-goods should be in the form of additional viewable impressions. Determination of threshold achievement is based on total campaign impressions.
  5. For large format ads (242,500 pixels or more), a viewable impression is counted if 30 % of pixels are viewable for one second.
  6. All transactions should use MRC (media rating council) accredited vendors only.
  7. Buyer and seller should agree on a single measurement vendor ahead of time to avoid costly labour-intensive error prone manual processes of reconciliation.

These principles offer marketers a way to elevate the productivity of their investments and have a more scientific approach to cross-platform analytics and integrated marketing campaign analyses.


Ad Fraud: Botnet Project

There is a tendency to discuss viewability and ad fraud in the same breath because they both represent digital marketing efforts not reaching their intended targets. Though some fraudulent ads are also non-viewable, a non-viewable ad is not the same as a fraudulent ad. Hence, besides viewability issues, the online advertising industry is battling an ongoing fraud problem, which viewability standards do nothing to address. In fact, up to 50% of web traffic is non-human, which undermines the industry’s goal of creating a trustworthy and productive supply chain.

Interestingly, Forensiq has demonstrated how the company’s malware-infected computer received instructions to view websites the way a user might by scrolling through and lingering on some pages before loading new ones. Thus, while viewability may reduce the problems posed by non-viewable ads, it is having problems with sophisticated bots.


Towards 100 % Ad Viewability

In the coming years, digital marketers strive to reach 100 % viewability and develop an digital marketing ecosystem worthy of trust and primed for vastly increased investment. For instance, Google DoubleClick introduced viewability measurement for display ads last year and for video ads this year. In a video interview with Beet.TV, Jane Hong, Google DoubleClick’s head of industry for CPG advertisers, provides an interesting perspective: “Technically, if an advertiser wants to push for 100% viewability, you can get fairly close – the question is, at what price of inventory does that make sense? How much inventory is there really at that point?”



Andrews, R. (2015). Full Video Ad Viewability, We Will Get There, Google’s Jane Hong. Retrieved 24 March from: http://www.beet.tv/2015/01/br15googlehong.html

Forensiq (2014). Forensiq Botnet Project. Retrieved 24 March 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WUnN31DQEA

IAB (2014). IAB State Of Viewability 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laiVRyzPtLM

Simon Raun Madsen

I am a marketing, business, and communications academic and practitioner with strong cross-disciplinary skills from courses and work experience within the fields of marketing and business intelligence. In particular, my passion for technology and several years of experience with online marketing have provided me with a flair for digital solutions, data analysis, and front-end development.
Simon Raun Madsen

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