Viewability in display advertising gains prominence among advertisers

For advertisers, a system that allows you to buy only ads that have been proven to be seen could be a better alternative to buying in bulk through CPM, though admittedly

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Published: Dec 19, 2014 8:47 AM  | 4 min read
Viewability in display advertising gains prominence among advertisers

Google’s report that 56.1% of all digital display ads are not seen by visitors might have created a stir but Indian advertisers seem more sanguine about the issue.

56.1% of online ads are not seen, says Google

“Viewability is of course important but what is more necessary is engagement. If an ad is bad, viewers will not interact with it even if it is seen,” said Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice President and Head (Marketing, Product, Digital & E-Commerce) of HDFC Life Insurance.

Jaimit Doshi, Head of Marketing and Product at Kotak Securities also swears by the efficacy of performance driven campaigns. He admits that when you buy via the CPM model you have to invest in the right inventory as viewability becomes important. “But we usually buy on CPC model. I don’t even look at CPR on impressions,” he said.

But does this mean that Indian advertisers and publishers are fine with the existing CPC or CPL models even if it transpires that a majority of the ads are not seen? This seems a little difficult to digest and to be fair almost all advertisers we spoke with said that viewability was an important consideration.

“Viewability will eventually become one of the key factors determining the payment model. Given the observations regarding page positions and ad sizes, we will have to rethink our display ad marketing plan. Based on this research, we will re-evaluate our inventory on the lines of high and low value, then shift budgets and targets accordingly,” said Naveen Kukreja, Group Chief Marketing Officer at

One of the factors affecting this low viewability score according to the Google report was that traditional ideas on banner placements were shown to not be infallible. For example, Google said that the most viewed inventory was one just above the page fold and not at the top of the page. This leads to an important question about whether publishers too need to change how they approach digital advertisement and inventory.

However, Manan Kotak, Partner and Digital head at Chitralekha Group feels thinking that traditional banner placements being proved wrong is not the right way to see it. Comparing digital advertisement to the Japanese principle of Kaizen or constant improvement; he suggested that the study was another example of how digital advertising is getting refined and the process of measuring advertising effectiveness - from served impressions to viewable impressions, can be constantly improved.

“Every medium evolves with time - digital medium is very new compared to other traditional industries like print. It has to start off taking support from past experience, and then developing further based on medium’s unique qualities and complications. Shifting onto viewable impressions will surely ensure that advertiser spends are more effective and justified,” he said.

But is there a way to include viewability as a metrics? Google and IAB are working on models around this.

Vishal Sampat, CEO of SMG Convonix, points out that comScore has a tool called AdEffx which provides viewability metrics with gross impressions and viewable impressions at a placement-level within a partner. This data can be used to optimize for viewability. Ad-serving systems and DSPs are both investing in viewability and verification capabilities to ensure impressions are more viewable alongside brand-safe content, he says.

However, he still questions how viable this could be. “A viewable impression is one that has a chance of being viewed and hence I doubt you can really buy views in a standard banner display ecosystem. A shift to buying viewable impressions at scale, especially through programmatic platforms like Adwords or DSPs would surely lead to higher upticks on brand metrics and hence allow for more investments on digital media,” he explains.

For advertisers, a system that allows you to buy only ads that have been proven to be seen could be a better alternative to buying in bulk through CPM, though admittedly Indian advertisers seem to prefer CPL or CPC. However, this could likely cost them more. When posed this question, Doshi said that he was happy to pay premium rates if he was sure that the customer had seen the ad since it shows intent. “Digital is all about being able to monetize all datapoints so the more datapoints you have, the better. For example, on YouTube, I prefer to buy True View ads since even if I am paying more I know that the viewer who has seen the entire ad without skipping wanted to consume it and was not being forced,” he said.

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