Is your online Ad Spend being wasted?

By Darren Hamer

There’s one big question brands need to ask themselves when it comes to online advertising: is anyone even seeing their ad? According to a recent study by comScore, 31% of people aren’t. A separate study by EyeTrackShop that performed over 2000 eye tracking studies over the last 16 months showed that 30% of ads were not viewed at all – even when the web page in question was viewed for up to ten seconds.

In fact, Peter Bonnier, Head of Digital at Bonnier Tidskrifter, recently compared buying digital space to purchasing ‘billboards where a third of them are at the bottom of the ocean’. Of the UK’s estimated spend on digital ad space this year £1.55 billion will be wasted on ads that are never seen.

This figure isn’t exactly promising. No brand would allow for such high wastage of physical ad space, so why are we making the same allowances for digital? Traditionally, online advertising has been measured through either CPM (cost per thousand impressions) or clicks. What neither of these measure, however, is how many people have actually seen the ad. Viewing an ad and simply loading a web page are two very different things.

Viewability has been floating around the media since the Media Ratings Council (MRC) in the USA released its Viewable Impressions Advisory, which stated that online ad impressions should be viewable in order to be compatible to other media. It also revealed the disturbing data that the viewability for live online campaigns ranged from 80% to under 10%. A little closer to home, the UK IAB defines an ad as ‘visible’ if over 50% of the banner is in view for 1 second or more, thereby having the potential to be viewed.

It’s easy to get lost in terms like visibility and viewability. At the end of the day, it all comes back to the same thing: is anyone seeing your ad? We can argue about ad placement and number of pixels and noise on the site, but the only way to be sure that your ad is being seen, is to test that your ad is being seen – literally. EyeTrackShop’s biometric eye tracking solution tracks the eye movement through a participant’s webcam on their laptop or tablet, and can provide measurable data on whether your ad is being seen, how long it is viewed for, and to what level consumers are engaging with your ad.

A recent study commissioned by YouTube tested how engaged consumers were with a prominent banner ad space on their site (in this example, the ad in question was for McDonalds). Results showed that not only was the ad seen by 100% of participants, but that it was the first place their eyes landed on and on average was looked at for 1.85 seconds. The rest of the webpage did not fare so well – much of it is completely glanced over, and were there to be an ad placed in this space, it is likely to be completely missed.

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With new questions raised about the viewability of ads – and the technology to answer them – perhaps it is time for a new standard in display advertising measurement.

About the author

Darren Hamer is Managing Director UK at EyeTrackShop. EyeTrackShop is launching realCPM, an eyetracking auditing methodology for brands and agencies.


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