The effectiveness of digital advertising has been plunged into further doubt after an indepth study of senior agency and publishing chiefs revealed that half believe the viewability standards set by the IAB and Media Rating Council are simply not high enough.
The report, produced by ad technology company InSkin Media and consultancy FaR Partners, follows WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell’s claims that the group’s clients are increasingly wary of the channel, following evidence many online ads they pay for go unseen.
Meanwhile ad blocking software is expected to wipe out nearly £50bn worth of global online ads next year and a separate report claimed that £485m worth of online ads have never even been seen, due to issues with programmatic buying.
The InSkin Media study shows that only about a third (37%) of digital chiefs think the official viewability guideline – that 50% of an ad has to be in view for one second, to be deemed viewable – is sufficient.
While half think this standard is insufficient in general, this rises to nearly two-thirds (63%) for larger, non-standard ad formats – particularly skins and wallpapers.
The most important factor senior decision-makers say will help create an effective viewability standard is “consistent measurement approaches across vendors” – scoring 8.3 out of 10 (10 being the maximum level of importance).
“The research was prompted after asking several leading vendors to measure the viewability of ISM’s non-standard ad formats, according to the current standards,” said Steve Doyle, InSkin Media’s chief commercial officer. “The results ranged from a staggering 5% to 85%, which proves how far we need to go in order to develop consistency in measurement practices and improve standards across the industry.”
In fact, with the average percentage of ads viewable across campaigns run by agencies involved in the study at 65%, nearly 9 in 10 (85%) respondents said inconsistent measurement approaches lead to discrepancies in campaigns, and confusion about viewability in-market.
Yet opinion on the feasibility of an industry-wide “viewable cost-per-thousand impression” (vCPM) model is sharply divided. Over half (53%) of those surveyed do not think that “all brand advertising” formats will ever be bought on a viewable impression basis. However, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) believe it will happen within a year.
As with creating an effective viewability standard, digital chiefs agree that “consistent measurement approaches across vendors” is also the key factor to make a vCPM model a reality (score 8.4 out of 10), followed by a “viewability standard addressing all ad formats” (7.8).
Doyle added: “Clearly there’s a disconnect between the viewability standards themselves and our collective ability to effectively measure all digital ad formats – particularly non-standard, online branding formats. A solution which is gaining traction, is an open-source approach, that is, one not owned by any single entity. In theory, this progressive approach scored 7.5 out of 10 on an effectiveness scale.”
Despite the ongoing challenges in viewability measurement, of those surveyed, 80% said that the debate is leading to a welcome wider discussion about engagement metrics for online ads.
The metrics that leading buyers and sellers of online ads want to see more prominent in the market are ‘time spent’ (44% cited it in the top 3) followed by ‘brand recall’ (37%) and ‘engagement’ (32%).
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