How does mobile viewability measure up?

Anne Freier

In Mobile Advertising

October 12, 2016

Exponential, the mobile advertising and intelligence firm, recently published a guide on advertising viewability, which highlights current issues and usages of viewability measurements within digital campaigns.
It defines ‘viewability’ as the “ability to measure whether or not an ad had the possibility to actually be seen”. The emphasis here is on ‘possibility’. That means ads don’t actually need to be seen.
With mobile advertising growing faster than expected, marketers have been quick to demand solid viewability metrics. Now, there are related measurement tools and guidelines that have been developed to offer advertisers some reassurance that their ads are really being seen – or at least have the possibility to be viewed. But there are also many hurdles, particularly when it comes to measuring mobile campaigns.
What are the standards? Exponential found two definitions – one set out by the Media Rating Council, which has been widely accepted by other regulatory bodies; and the other from GroupM, which defines viewability as an advert truly seen, rather than given the possibility to do so.
Viewability measures
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A simple formula suggests that the viewability rate in percentage can be measured by dividing viewable impressions by measured impressions. That’s quite a neat calculation – as long as you know your impressions.
Calculating viewability rate
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However, it’s never quite as easy as it seems. There are many challenges remaining when it comes to measuring viewable impressions on mobile devices. In fact, the Media Rating Council hasn’t launched any official standards for mobile just yet. Variation in smartphone and tablet screen sizes alone presents a challenge for measuring viewability accurately. In addition, scrolling behaviours have made it harder to define and measure viewable standards.
Connection speeds are also putting a serious damper on accurate measurement and with mobile devices being used on the go, pages and ads often load slower than they were meant to.
Exponential finds that current viewability measurements are using pixels that fire each second to show that they’re still in view. But that carries significant data drainage with it that has partially resulted in the rise of adoption of ad blocking apps.
Difficulties in measuring mobile devices for viewability
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Despite hurdles, viewability measurement has come a long way and continues to improve. Measurement technologies are likely to evolve further to close the gap between analysed and total measured impressions. Change does take time, but as standards continue to be formulated trust in mobile viewability measurement is set to grow.
Right now, traders can ensure that their clients understand standards and formats that are being used. Likewise, advertisers can pick and choose the right vendor to match their needs and viewability aspirations.
The study concludes by reminding that viewability isn’t the ultimate:

Whilst a decent baseline of viewability makes obvious sense, it quickly becomes apparent that the law of diminishing returns applies when trying to increase viewability upwards of 70% and higher. Moving the needle on already-high viewability rates can prove expensive, and will not yield the campaign success that the fundamentals of creative messaging and effective targeting will deliver.