Video Essentials

Beyond Viewability: Research Shows the Way to Ad Effectiveness


Viewability is a hot topic for online advertisers, but viewability is only a start. At last week’s DMEXCO marketing conference in Cologne, Germany, InSkin Media offered fresh research on how advertisers can achieve strong online ad engagement.

Viewability rates vary by country said InSkin chief commercial officer Steve Doyle, but they have one thing in common: “They’re all a bit crap.” According to research, only three percent of online ads offer 80 percent viewability. While average viewabiilty rates have improved over the past year, they’ve improved only slightly, from roughly 52 to 57 percent (Doyle focused on U.K. numbers). That isn’t good enough, he said.

SteveDoyle1“Viewability is just the opportunity to see the ad,” Doyle reminded the audience. Even strong viewability rates don’t mean the ad was seen. That’s where visual engagement comes in, which measures the likelihood that the viewer will actually look at an ad.

Working with partners Sticky, Research Now, and Moat, InSkin conducted a viewability study this year that included 696 eye-tracking sessions and surveys of over 4 thousand U.K. adults. Presenting the results for the first time, Doyle said that 86 percent of non-viewable ads were never looked at. But viewability shouldn’t be the end goal: 18 percent of viewable ads were looked at for over 1 second, 57 percent were looked at for under 1 second, and 25 percent got no attention at all.

The goal for online advertisers should be to increase visual engagement, which fuels memory-building. There’s strong research that gaze time (how long viewers looked at an ad) is tied to brand recall, Doyle showed.

While relative attention levels are determined by the format (bigger is better, for example), absolute attention levels are driven by the campaign and the creative. Ad relevance plays a strong role in gaze time: Viewers spend 14 percent more time looking at an ad when they’re in the campaign’s target audience, and perform 32 percent better on recall.

Page clutter also has a strong relationship with viewability and effectiveness: Gaze time decreases by 37 percent when 3 ads appear on a page. Ads get high viewability and high effectiveness on clean page with auto-refresh capping and lazy loading ads that allow the content to load first. Ads get high viewability but low effectiveness on pages with lots of clutter above the fold and with intrusive formats like interstitials.

Doyle left the audience with four key takeaways:

  1. Viewability rates are good at predicting whether or not an ad has the chance to be seen, but not how much attention it will get.
  2. Visual engagement supports memory building.
  3. Ad clutter is detrimental to ad success.
  4. Formats define relative visual engagement, but creative executions define absolute visual engagement.

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