Earlier this week, the digital and online ad industry was shaken. Google actually admitted that more than half of their ads are not even seen by viewers! Business Insuder reported that advertisers are shifting to pay only for ads that have actually been viewed, as opposed to those that are just being blindly served. That’s why Google has released a study analyzing its display ad platforms using its Active View technology, such as DoubleClick, to explore which factors affect ad viewability. It wants to show the market it is taking the issue seriously — and that it is responsible enough to admit that even its own platforms don’t deliver 100% of the time.
The results seem staggering: Advertisers are potentially throwing half of their budgets away every time they pay for display ads. Some 56.1% of all the impressions served on the Google display platforms could never have been actually seen because they were served outside of the browser window.
When the world’s largest digital display advertising company puts out a number this large (and that’s without even mentioning bot-related ad fraud), the industry should be jolted into sitting up and take notice of this massive problem. Google is on track to earn $55 billion a year, roughly, in ad revenues. A chunk of that was paid for ads that no one saw, Google’s study implies. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that many of these impressions are sold on a cost-per-click basis, so not all the ads that are served and go unseen are being paid for. But even still: around one in two ads are served are being wasted in locations outside of the browser window, so there’s not a chance people could see them.
Digital advertising companies often say their properties are superior to traditional media like TV due to their sophisticated targeting and measurement products. But just as TV viewers are likely to check at their phones or put the kettle on during a commercial break, it turns out legions of people never lay eyes on the ads served to them online. They’re not even getting the option to lay their eyes on most of them.
The reason so many ads are un-viewable?
Page position really matters. Google says the most viewable ad position is right above the page fold (the lowest point on the page before a user has to scroll) — not right at the top of the page as most people might think. However, Google also caveats this by saying above the fold is not always viewable, but just that it’s the most likely place an ad will be seen.
Size matters when it comes to display ads too. Unsurprisingly, vertical ads garner the highest viewability rates. This is likely because they stay on the page as a user scrolls for longer.
Viewability also varies across different content verticals. The sites associated with the most captive engagement levels — reference, online communities and games — have far higher viewability scores than content about food and drink, news or real estate.
Google says this research should help advertisers better understand high and low-value inventory and then shift budgets and targets accordingly. On the publisher side, Google advises companies to aim for above 50% viewability rates, consider which ad sizes are most effective at different page positions and better identify and monetize often disregarded but valuable below-the-fold inventory.
But the research also raises the question as to why Google did not set these standards in the first place when it formed these publisher partnerships. It may only be the middle-man in the advertiser-publisher relationship, but it nevertheless plays its part in the advertising viewability problem too.
At The Social Clinic, we take social media marketing and especially social media and online advertising very seriously. Although it makes a lot of sense to advertise on digital platforms and websites with banners and sky scrapers and towers and headers, we refused to enter the online and digital advertising world because it is a loosing one. It is only a matter of time, and this time has come, where users and clients will notice that their ads are not getting any return, return on investment or return on engagement that is.
We always preach to our clients that digital and online advertising is a waste of time, money, and space. It is not personal, it does not “talk” to each user individually, and it is “ignorable”.
Through our partnerships and expertise of over 4 years in social media, and the oldest in Saudi Arabia & GCC, we literally study each and every social media advertising campaign so that we reach the right audience the right way at the right time achieving head turning results to our clients such as 0.01c/click on a previous campaign we had on various social networks.