Viewable impressions send engagement and relevance soaring

New data shows that the display advertising industry is moving towards viewable impressions, writes Michael Froggatt, principal research analyst, MediaMind.

The display advertising industry: moving towards viewable impressions
The display advertising industry: moving towards viewable impressions

Viewable impressions - display ad impressions actually in-view to the user - are a hot topic that continues to gain steam in the digital advertising industry.

The Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative, a coordinated effort by the IAB, 4A’s, the ANA and others recently engaged the Media Rating Council (MRC) for certification. I won’t get into the timeline or details, all of that is available on, but the most important and talked about point is the intention to shift digital measurement from a 'served' to a 'viewable' impression standard.

DG MediaMind, as a third party ad server placing the advertising content, is in a neutral position, but one that enables tracking and analysis of the feasibility - and impact - of viewable impressions.

Our clients could previously track whether the adappeared above or below the fold through our analytics offering, but a recent upgrade to the system allows for comprehensive viewability metrics. That means that advertisers serving an ad within the platform can measure viewability based on the IAB/3MS recommended definition, at least 50% of pixels in-view for one second.

Optionally advertisers can customise the threshold to a more stringent level, such as 75% in-view for 10 seconds. All this means that the data available on viewability is now far more detailed, enabling interesting analysis of how campaigns are performing.

Metrics from impressions that never had a chance to be seen by a consumer were dragging down overall performance; by eliminating extraneous impressions, we saw performance increase dramatically.

In a preliminary analysis of approximately 7.4 billion rich media impressions recorded worldwide during September 2012, we quantified the connection between campaigns with a higher aggregate viewable rate and higher engagement metrics.

Worldwide, click-through rates (CTR) of viewable impressions based on the proposed 3MS standard were 0.34% compared to 0.22% for all rich media, a lift of 54.5%.

CTR and PCCR by viewability

Source: MediaMind

To get a better sense of the impact of viewability, we aggregated the campaigns and bucketed them based on the share of impressions that were viewable according to the IAB/3MS standard.  

The data shows that as the viewable rate of campaigns increased, both CTR and the post-click conversion rate rose as well. Again, after cutting the unseen impressions, the display campaigns were more engaging and resulted in a higher conversion rate - clearly a result of the new viewability attribute.

Total rich media CTR v viewable CTR

Source: MediaMind

The true value of viewable impressions may not be in the metrics themselves, but more so in the improvements in advertising inventory that it spurs as publishers adjust their site lay-outs in response to the new standards.

Looking globally, we have seen that many publishers already redesigned their websites to maximise viewable impressions, such as, formerly MSNBC. In a recent interview, NBCUniversal EVP and IAB Chair Peter Naylor said that NBCUniversal redesigned their website to maximise viewable impressions in 2010.

While they saw an initial reduction in display inventory, engagement increased nearly 2.5 times pre-viewable impression levels. Other publishers are following suit.

One thing is certain: the display advertising industry is moving towards viewable impressions. As it does, advertisers are demanding innovative solutions. Smart vendors - ad servers, third-party trackers, and publishers alike - are going to meet that demand.

Michael Froggatt, principal research analyst, MediaMind