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Ad visibility: Putting performance into sharper view

Ad visibility: Putting performance into sharper view Michael Griffin

When it comes to rich media and video ads, engagement (measured in large part through user interaction metrics) is a big key to determining campaign success and value. However, interaction data -- while vitally important -- only tells a part of the story when analyzing the success of rich media and video creative. On the other side of the equation is ad visibility, defined as the actual time and area an online ad is viewable by users within their browser windows.

So what does that mean exactly? If ad visibility measurement were applied to the old standard of TV advertising, advertisers would be able to measure with precise accuracy when viewers were in front of the TV during their commercial and when they were not. This would likely cause a major tectonic shift in the television advertising business, to say the least. Comparable visibility reporting capabilities for online display advertising would have just as profound an effect on the interactive advertising industry.

Though the benefits of ad visibility measurement data differ depending on where you sit in the ecosystem, there is still considerable value for creative and media agencies, as well as advertisers. Creative agencies can determine which areas in their ad units need to be optimized and learn behavioral insights of viewers; media agencies can compare and contrast the performance of different placements, as well as better evaluate their media spends; and advertisers ultimately benefit by getting their brands in front of as many receptive eyeballs as possible.

It's important to combine interaction metrics with visibility to get a full picture of ad performance, but how does this process work? Let's take the four scenarios below and analyze the results:

Sample ad unit 1: Low interaction rates, high visibility
We know this ad was viewable within part (or all) of the browser window during each impression, meaning the media placement was successful. However, with low interaction rates, the units likely needed creative adjustments to capture audience attention and drive interaction. For instance, perhaps the unit could benefit from more interactive features, a stronger message, or a clearer call-to-action.

Sample ad unit 2: Low interaction rates, low visibility
Unlike the first scenario, this ad was not often viewable, meaning the media placement was unsuccessful. Both media and creative would need to take a second look at this ad because many users never saw it -- and those that did weren't engaged enough to interact. Again, the ad could include features that resonate with the target audience (i.e., coupon downloads for CPG marketers targeting moms) and relevant messaging designed to engage viewers.

Sample ad unit 3: High interaction rates, low visibility
Though this execution could have been better optimized at the media placement level, it would appear the buy succeeded in terms of which sites it ran on and relevance to the target audience, as users who were able to view the ad were engaged and interacted with it. The high interaction rates also prove creative succeeded in terms of a smart use of features, compelling messaging, and a strong call-to-action -- in this case, the right message was put in front of the right audience, just not everyone in that audience was able to see the ad within their browser windows.

Sample ad unit 4: High interaction rates, high visibility
This is the sweet spot, where creative and media come together to create the perfect impression. This ad was viewable, meaning the media buy was successful in terms of placement, running on the right sites, and reaching the right viewers. In addition, the creative was relevant and engaging for the online audience, causing them to interact with the unit. This best practice scenario is where all rich media and video ads ideally should fall.

It's important to note that, the above examples aside, about 25 percent of all ad impressions never appear in a browser window. What that means is those impressions don't have the chance to count toward interaction metrics (whether positively or negatively), as they're never been seen by online viewers. With that in mind, it's important for agencies, advertisers and publishers to look beyond traditional metrics to measure the success of an online ad campaign. With a more complete picture of ad performance at the execution level, all industry players will gain the ability to better qualify each impression, meaning better ROI for all.

Michael Griffin is EVP of marketing and strategic development at EyeWonder, a Limelight Networks business. 

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Michael Griffin is Executive Vice President of Business Development of EyeWonder, Inc., a Limelight Networks business. Mr. Griffin joined EyeWonder in 2000 as head of sales and marketing and was promoted to EyeWonder’s executive team in 2002. In...

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Commenter: daniel redman

2010, May 04

With all due respect, Michael, your assumption is that the only interaction possible from ad units is on the click or engagement. What happens to the other 90%+ that view and don't click? They are your majority prospect based that you haven't accounted for here. You're right in that the sweet spot is having high engagement at a high impression yield, but is not limited to on-banner actions. If you're looking to explore more progressive ways of tracking ad efficiency don't forget about the view-throughs!