Marketers waste £485m a year on unseen ads and the problem is getting worse

Marketers are throwing millions into unseen digital ads and viewability ad rates worsening due to increased investment in automated buying, according to research by Meetrics.

Viewability rates are getting worse, according to Meetrics research
Viewability rates are getting worse, according to Meetrics research
[Programmatic is] certainly less transparent than buying directly and there’s also a big question mark about the quality of much of the inventory sold this way and, clearly, that most of it never ends up being seen

The report reveals that despite the efforts of much of the UK ad industry to set viewability standards and get a fairer deal for advertisers, the viewability rate is actually getting worse.

Many advertisers are starting to pay more to guarantee ad viewability with publishers and it’s become a huge priority for many brands.

As O2 innovation and capability lead Dan Michelson told Marketing last month, "For a brand of O2’s size, even a small percentage of ads not being seen is a large amount of spend. Our concern was, given the amount of money we were paying [for] high-impact ad units, for them not to be viewed was a massive issue when it came down to our brand campaigns."

According to the research viewability has fallen to 49% for the first quarter of 2015, sliding from 56% in the second quarter of 2014. The figures also reveal that the UK is markedly behind other European countries, with Germany seeing a 64% viewability rate and France 62%.

"Cross-referencing our data with the IAB’s digital ad spend report² suggests around £485 million last year was spent on display ads that weren’t seen. So, it’s vital that agencies, on behalf of their advertiser clients, demand more accountability from the vendors and middlemen used to buy their media. One way is to ensure any vendors are rubber-stamped by JICWEBS that they meet industry-agreed standards for online ad trading," said Anant Joshi, Meetrics’ director of international business.

Meetrics is levelling the blame at programmatic trading, arguing that the slide in viewability rates is correlating with the increased investment into ads that are traded automatically.

"There’s no doubt programmatic brings many benefits to advertisers but there’s a flip side to every coin. It’s certainly less transparent than buying directly and there’s also a big question mark about the quality of much of the inventory sold this way and, clearly, that most of it never ends up being seen," added Joshi.


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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).

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