New in-depth research which used eye-tracking technology has made a nonsense of the current ad viewability guidelines by showing that an online ad needs to be on the screen for 14 seconds to have any chance of being looked at.
The IAB and Media Ratings Council’s recommendation that an ad is considered viewable if 50% of it is in view for at least one second has always been seen as dubious but a new study by InSkin Media, Research Now and Sticky claims to show just how ridiculous it is.
The research, which involved four companies and nearly 4,300 consumers, was designed to study the relationship between viewability, gaze time, ad clutter and people’s ability to remember ads.
Eye-tracking reveals that 25% of ads defined as viewable by the industry guidelines are never looked at. One third achieve a gaze time (time spent actually looking at the ad) of less than a second, while only 42% are looked at for at least a second. The median time a viewable ad is actually gazed at is 0.7 seconds.
The study reveals how long an ad needs to be viewable in the first place to hit certain levels of gaze time. On average, to be looked at for up to a second an ad needs to be viewable for 14 seconds. Ads achieving at least one second of gaze time are viewable for an average of 26 seconds. For at least two seconds gaze time the average viewability is 33 seconds, while for 3+ seconds gaze time, average viewability is 37 seconds.
“A campaign should be assessed in three stages: did the ad have the opportunity to be seen, was it actually looked at and what was the impact,” said Steve Doyle, InSkin Media’s CCO. “It should be judged and optimised against the last stage (impact) but the focus on viewability means campaigns are increasingly optimised against the first stage (the opportunity) which can be counter-productive to maximising impact.”
“Why? Smaller formats have higher ‘opportunity to be seen’ rates as their size means it’s easier to hit viewability thresholds – but gaze time is very low. Thus, it’s optimising on low engagement and low impact.”
The study also shows how ad clutter affects how long people look at ads and their ability to remember them. In cluttered scenarios, ad gaze time decreases by 37% on average across the formats.
Although page takeover formats aren’t affected, clutter means ad recall drops by an average of 20% across the other three formats – billboards, half-pages and MPU’s – with billboards being most affected (-26%).
“Ad clutter significantly reduces the attention each ad receives. This translates into weaker recall and lower ad effectiveness,” added Doyle. “Publishers must tread the fine line between more ads which drives more revenue, on a CPM basis, or less ads which mean stronger results for advertisers and a better user experience. It’s obvious which one is most conducive to long-term loyalty from clients and readers.”
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