Advertising's big blind spot

In the UK alone, adspend is projected to hit nearly £15bn in 2019 - but are brands really getting their money's worth in 'viewability'? Faye Liddle-Moore commercial director for Northern Europe at Outbrain, reveals all...

Advertising's big blind spot

CMOs around the world spoke up about their frustration at paying for ad impressions nobody ever saw and wasting their advertising dollars. As a result, the industry shifted from an impressions-served standard to an impressions-viewed standard, in the hope of reducing ad wastage. Today, viewability is arguably the most sought-after metric in a media plan. Yet, at the same time, viewability is possibly the most misunderstood metric. The IAB (as well as the MRC) defines viewability as 50% of pixels visible on-screen for two consecutive seconds. Is that enough to make an impression, let alone have an impact or trigger an action?

Outbrain decided to put ‘viewability’ through its paces and surveyed 1,000 UK consumers to test whether they could recall ads conforming to the current IAB standard, and found that 75% of respondents were unable to recall the brands when exposed to an ad meeting that definition. 

What does 'viewable' even mean?
It was important for us first to establish whether industry professionals understood the gold standard for ad success, so we also surveyed 190 senior media professionals and tested their knowledge about IAB viewability standards. Results showed that nearly half of them either answered incorrectly or did not know, confirming that there is a widespread confusion surrounding the industry’s own benchmark.

It is clear too much emphasis is put on viewability and that evaluating ad effectiveness is a complex and multi-layered exercise. Outbrain’s study dug a little deeper into what mattered most for consumers. 

Trust in trust!
In an industry where trust is the most valuable commodity, marketers must prioritise premium or trusted environments. Environment sets the context for an ad and will have an impact on a consumer’s trust in a brand. Our study shows that respondents are most likely to trust a product if it is advertised on a premium publisher site (44%), confirming that there is a direct correlation between the quality of the environment and the quality of the brand experience created for the user.

This direct correlation complements the Association for Online Publishing’s neuroscience study, which found that premium editorial environments drive 50% stronger engagement and a 9% stronger emotional response compared to other digital environments. 

The importance of being likeable
Choosing the wrong moment or format can jeopardise what could have otherwise been a positive interaction. We asked consumers about their advertising preferences to determine what types of ads incited a positive or negative reaction. Not surprisingly, the least successful ads were those consumers were forced to watch, with nearly all (95%) of our respondents reporting a negative attitude towards a brand that interrupted or disrupted their online activity.

In terms of the online ad formats that consumers found most irritating, 56% of the respondents deemed pop-ups to be the most annoying, followed by autoplay video with sound, and then autoplay video without sound.

The answer is clear: consumers don’t want to be disturbed by intrusive ads when browsing online. Formats that empower users to decide whether and when to engage with an ad play a critical role in their attitude towards it. Click-to-play video, for example, was considered the least disruptive across all video formats. 

Relevance is the message
In addition to not wanting to be interrupted, 92% of consumers said ads must be relevant to their wants and needs in order to win their attention. Moreover, 43% of our respondents said they would remember an advertised product only if it were useful for them. Relevancy expectations are high given today’s technology, and brands that fail to advertise quality over quantity will quickly fall out of favour with consumers.

Overall, consumers have shown that an ad being ‘viewable’ is not enough. If three out of four people can’t recall an ad they viewed, then there’s a missing piece to the puzzle and advertising dollars are being poorly used. Consumers want self-selected engagement, in the right format, with ads relevant to them.

With that said, brands must make the most of their advertising budget to reach the right audience, in a personalised manner, and in a way that incites a positive response from viewers. In the end, brands that achieve a memorable brand experience will find it makes a lasting impression on their bottom line.

To see the full report please click here

75% of respondents were unable to recall the brand when exposed to an ad that was ‘viewable’, according to the IAB definition 

95% reported a negative attitutde towards a brand whose ad interrupted or disrupted their online activity 

56% deemed pop-ups to be the most annoying online ad format 

43% would remember an advertised product only if it were useful for them