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An Ad That is Not Seen Has No Value


My friend and mentor Ari Bluman had a number of pithy sayings. One Ari-ism I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is “An ad that is not seen has no value.”

I’ve been thinking about his saying while looking at how online ad campaigns are evaluated. In particular, I often wonder if evaluation is more complicated than it needs to be. This is because there are different tools, standards and third party evaluation systems in place.

But in one sense it should be simple, as advertisers need to answer one question before moving onto any other criteria or metrics, which is this:

“Are people seeing my ad?”

Tough to argue with, right? However, not everyone agrees that viewability is the “core” metric. Some marketers, advertisers and publications still cling to the notion that what matters first and foremost are CPM and CTR.

In this post, I will outline why viewability needs to come first before anything else. There are three reasons in particular why this should be so:

1. Ad Fraud is a constant problem

Clicks and impressions can be gamed. For example, metrics company Incapsula has found that 56% of web traffic is bot traffic, with 29% being so-called ‘bad bots’ – scraping tools, spammers, impersonators.

How easy is it to send fake traffic to your site or your ad? Just go to Google and type in the search term “buy website traffic cheap.” Do it and you’ll get over 5,000 results. Many are from companies that pretend they will send you ‘real’ human beings, but will actually deliver you bots. And how will you know?

There are many reasons why we work with a network of trusted publishers, one is the fact that the data they provide is reputable. But on a wider industry level, the issue of ad fraud is still very much live.

2. Mobile means viewability is even more important

Earlier this year, Meetrics produced one of its regular online ad viewability studies. The ‘headline’ was that average viewabilty had dropped from 58% to 55% in Germany and 49% to 47% in the UK.

The explanation for this drop was that it was down to people surfing via their mobile devices. Users are on a smaller screen size and have a tendency to scroll down the page faster than if viewing something on a desktop.

People use their time differently on mobile devices, they quickly scroll to whatever it is they came to find, leaving everything else unseen.

Remember also that mobile browsing eats into many people’s data plans. Wasted time really does cost money.

Mobile web browsing overtook browsing via desktops for the first time at the end of last year. That makes the case for viewability even stronger.

As an advertiser you need to take into account mobile consumer behavior. And that means focusing on whether your ad is seen. As we said all the way at the start, if it’s not, it is worthless.

3. A focus on viewability raises ad standards

Perhaps the most important point is that by using viewability as your starting point, you focus more on the design of the ad. Creativity becomes much more of a priority.

You want your ad to be seen and noticed, so you design something that catches people’s attention and encourages them to engage with you.

At JustPremium, we’ve designed our ad units with the specific intention of increasing viewability rates. Products such as our mobile video ads and our desktop “header” ads optimize to full viewability and therefore generate an excellent CTR and engagement rate.

Concentrating on ad design, and making ad units that are viewed benefit both the advertisers we work with and our network of publishers. Our own viewability rates are now up to 80%.

However even a viewability rate of 80% means a fifth of visitors to a website are oblivious to the ad they’ve been served. The ad is still running at 20% below its optimal effectiveness.

That’s why our mission is to increase viewability as close to 100% as possible, and why we’re championing the theme of “We Love Better Ads” at DMexco in Cologne in September.

Better ads are ads that are seen. And ads that aren’t seen are worthless, and are by definition ‘bad’ ads. This should be the starting point for the whole industry, and it is something we should all be able to agree with Ari on.


Written by: Paul Dolan

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