Viewability Should Be Approached With Caution When Used As A Currency

Over the past year, one of the most hyped buzzwords that pierced the digital industry has been Viewability. All digital marketers – from advertisers, publishers, agencies, and technology players – have tried to conquer the viewability conundrum. Advertisers especially have questioned, “What do you mean the consumer cannot see my ad? I’m paying for impressions!” This is a very valid question and a question that is causing many marketers to use viewability as a sole performance indicator of a video campaign. However, considering the vast complexities and unknowns with viewability measurement, how quickly should we be pushing the industry to hold viewability with the highest weight of campaign performance, sometimes even as extreme as a currency? 


Viewability has many benefits to the marketplace as a strategic, directional optimization tool and fraud detection instrument. But, marketers should approach Viewability with caution when using it as a currency for several reasons.  First, many marketers using it as a currency want to directly associate low viewability with low inventory quality.  But, how many times have you watched a favorite show on Hulu or a clip on ABC.com and switched tabs or opened up your email while a pre-roll ad played? Because of these natural consumer behaviors, these premium content portals would not receive 100% viewability rate. Just as people get up from their couch during commercial breaks on TV, digital viewers sometimes shift their attention away while watching video content – only difference, it is measurable within digital and not for TV. 


Because of the major factor of human behavior within viewability measurement, it is important for marketers to not only optimize their media buy, but also the creative and ensure the message is aligned with the audience. Marketers need to give the consumer a reason not to change the tab, scroll down, or leave the couch.  By analyzing a sum of campaigns on premium inventory, Videology found that travel, leisure and entertainment scored higher viewability rates than verticals like financial services, telecommunications and government ads:

Looking at this data, it is possible to conclude that certain industry verticals naturally score higher viewability rates due to more consumer interest and possibly, more captivating creative. 


Further evidence of the importance of consumer behavior within the viewability equation can be seen when looking at targeting tactics. In Q4 2014, Videology ran a video campaign for a major automotive advertiser. The advertiser utilized three different targeting tactics through the Videology platform and viewability metrics were analyzed against these targeting tactics:

Those targeted by the campaign through simple demographic targeting saw lower viewability rates. When a marketer aligns the creative message with the right audience through more granular targeting tactics, consumer interest heightens resulting in viewable impressions. 


Even if it marketer wants to associate viewability solely on the media side of the equation, it still cannot be analyzed and bought in a vacuum. What truly is the most important success metric for most brand advertisers? Sales. At the end of the day, advertisers spend millions in advertising to make millions more in sales. Therefore, using Videology’s SalesImpactTM studies, Videology analyzed a portion of the campaign with high viewability rates (over 50%) versus unmeasurable impressions and correlated the post-exposure household penetration of the CPG products:

In some cases, high viewability exceeded unmeasurable impressions for sales penetration. But in other cases, unmeasurable impressions had a higher sales lift or the two were on par. Attempting to run a 100% viewable campaign as a way to drive actual sales will limit available impressions when eliminating unmeasurable impressions. In effect, this will limit reach and make the media buy artificially inefficient.  


The conclusion here is that marketers should take a structured approach when approaching viewability instead of blindly jumping on the bandwagon. First, use viewability as a directional tool. Just like when analyzing completion rates, look at viewability rates against inventory, creative versions, targeting tactics, dayparts, etc. Optimize during and for future campaigns using this data, which will be specific on a brand-by-brand basis. Advertisers may find that collecting viewability data and fully understanding viewability implications specific to their business, may ultimately help them approach the subject smarter without wasting dollars on inflated CPMs while losing sight of true campaign goals. 


Videology has always believed in the mission of creating products to help marketers make smarter media decisions. Viewability is one such product in the tool belt, but not the end-all product for all of our digital questions.

Brett Salinas

Director, Product Marketing

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