Viewability

If a tree fell down in a forest and nobody heard it, did it make a sound? You could ask the same question about ads. If an ad was served at the bottom of a mobile web page or app and nobody scrolled down to see it, did it make an impression?

Ad viewability is increasingly important for these exact situations. This metric measures only the impressions that are actually seen so your metrics will not be skewed by non-viewable ads. As a result, viewability standards and benchmarks are critical. Let’s explore this more in depth.

What is viewability?

Viewability is a digital advertising metric that measures “seen” impressions. Essentially, it only reports impressions that can actually be viewed.

So, what does “viewed” really mean? The standard definition indicates that at least 50% of the ad must be in view for at least one second for display ads and two seconds for video ads. This is the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) and Media Rating Council’s (MRC) viewability standards definition, but the guidelines may depend on other factors and individual marketers or media.

This concept aims to overcome a big challenge advertisers are facing in the digital measurement space by enabling accountability and generating more accurate insights. Let’s begin our discussion by covering more reasons why ad viewability is so important.

Why is viewability important?

Similar to other aspects of marketing, viewability is becoming increasingly critical as the industry is evolving. It’s also a very valuable marketing metric for your brand’s campaigns. And, expectedly, it’s much more accurate for measuring reach. Avoiding the discrepancy in ads served versus ads in view allows for more accurate insights and conclusions. These viewability standards also create easier ways to compare this metric across publishers, as there’s more consistency in their actual impact. Ultimately, viewability curates a more precise picture of how to drive better results for your business.

What causes ads to not be viewable?

There are a few factors to consider when uncovering why your ad may not be viewable.

placement on page

1. Page position

One reason an ad may not be viewable is its placement. Ads that are “below the fold,” for example, refer to the section of a web page that is only visible after scrolling down. Below the fold means that a physical medium, like a newspaper, would need to be unfolded to view the ad and a digital medium would require scrolling to view the ad.

It’s important to consider that “above the fold” does not always guarantee viewability though—there are various other factors that may impact whether or not your ad is seen.

omnichannel icon

2. Channel

Channels can have an impact on ad viewability. These channels could include social media, mobile in-app, Streaming TV, and many others. Volume, engagement, and number of ads can alter an individual channel’s performance and, subsequently, your ad’s performance.

book publisher

3. Publisher

Publishers have varying rates of viewability for their ads, with some featuring more non-viewable impressions than others.

Some publishers can also validate their viewability through third-party software.

medicine, gym, coffee, retail industry

4. Industry

Different content industries have varying levels of ad viewability, too, but a general best practice is to create and use content or ads that hold the viewer’s attention.

Improving viewability

While viewability potential can vary a lot depending on factors outside the advertiser's control, there are also many tactics to increase optimization and improve your ads’ viewability on channels.

  • Improve responsiveness
  • Make sure your digital advertising executions both adapt with the browser and optimize for a mobile environment.

  • Implement good design principles
  • Good ad design principles—such as a clear visual hierarchy or appropriate white space—can go a long way to improve viewability. Paired with high-quality content, good design can make an ad more engaging and information more digestible for users.

  • Optimize ad layout, size, and length
  • There are a few key best practices for the actual execution of your ad, including optimal layouts, sizes, and lengths. First, vertical layouts are preferable to horizontal layouts. In addition, the dimensions of your ad execution should be optimized to the following industry best practice sizing options: 120x240, 240x400, or 160x600.

    And, as mentioned, these layouts and sizes should be suited for a response environment—so consider that vertical sizes like 120×140, 240×400, 160×160, and 120×600 are best suited for mobile.

    Finally, aim for your ad to be as short as possible. More concise, crisp ads in terms of copy or time can help attract more attention. These kinds of optimizations are key to increased viewability.

  • Increase loading speed
  • Optimizing the loading speed ensures that users are able to fully view the ad before they navigate away from a web page. You can help increase your ad’s loading speed by reducing asset loading time, or removing unnecessary tags.

  • Try an interactive ad format
  • More rich media formats have historically been prone to higher viewability rates. Consider revamping your current static assets to tap into this trend.

How is viewability measured?

Now that you have a better idea of how to improve your viewability, you can start to understand how to calculate viewability. The standards of this measurement are always evolving as this method of advertising is popularizing. And the industry at large hasn’t fully adopted the current guidelines, so the definition may vary depending on individual marketers and media providers.

That said, there are a few existing guidelines that are generally considered standard in the industry. First, as discussed previously, an ad is typically considered viewable by the IAB and MRC when 50% of pixels are in view for at least one second. Video ads require a bit more—they’re considered to generate viewable impressions when they’ve been in view by a user for at least two seconds. And larger desktop ads only require 30% of the pixels to be in view. However, these viewability measurement standards do not apply to custom ad units—those have yet to follow a consistent standard.

Ad viewability formula

The rate as a percentage can be calculated with the following formula:

Viewability = (total viewable ad impressions / total measured ad impressions) x 100

While it’s not possible to measure 100% viewability accurately because of the number of inconsistencies, it’s imperative to stay educated about changes in the industry standard and adapt your marketing choices accordingly.

Viewability benchmarks and standards

Understanding viewability measurement, let’s uncover what rate we should be aiming for with our marketing decisions. Typically, ads that have 70% or higher viewability perform better than ads below that threshold. However, most ad campaigns can have viewability between 30% to 40% and be successful. Your expectations can be set accordingly—but, again, these numbers may evolve as the industry rapidly changes.

While accurate measurement like viewability can seem complicated, it’s clear that it’s pivotal to drawing insights and driving an improved marketing strategy for your brand. It’s important to trust the you work with, and that's where Amazon Ads comes in. Our trusted tools—like our Sizmek Ad Suite or Amazon DSP—enable you to create campaigns, buy ads, and measure performance of those ads in a brand-safe environment.