It’s a logical argument: Ads that are seen perform better than ads that aren’t. But does it prove undeniably that viewability rates are a key success metric for digital campaigns?
Some marketers sure operate as if that’s the case.
They’ve got a lot of evidence in their corner.
According to the IAB’s 2015 State of Viewability report, viewability should be considered a reliable benchmark for ad performance when a threshold of 70%+ of all measurable impressions in a campaign meets the minimum standard viewable rate of 50% of the ad in view for at least 1 second.
Ad delivery company Sizmek released its own report in 2015, Viewability Benchmarks, showing that ads with a 70%+ viewability threshold increased click-through rates (CTRs) by 54% and engagement rates by 2.5X.
In truth, performance is about a lot more than eyeballs on ads.
While ad viewability is an important metric for some campaigns, the link to performance hinges on goals. Many brand campaigns seek audience delivery and subsequent brand lift, while performance campaigns seek to drive other measurable on-site actions.
In fact, the percentage of ad viewability is rarely the best indicator of success for performance campaigns, where micro actions, leads and sales are the focus. Optimizing toward high viewability thresholds best matches brand campaign objectives, but still, moving KPIs away from ad viewability rates — and toward content engagement rates and their cost — is more efficient and effective.
Take our lead-gen campaign as an example (and an engagement campaign would work the same way):
We have a target Cost Per Lead (CPL) of $65.00 and two traffic sources. Site A’s CPMs run $5.00, with viewability at 90% and CTRs at 0.154%. Site B’s CPMs run $2.50, with an average viewability rate of 45% and CTRs averaging 0.100%. For simplicity, let’s assume that the conversion rates (CR), click to lead, for both sites are 4% and lead quality is equal.
How about those results?
Site B, with a viewability rate far less than IAB’s recommended 70%+ threshold, has a lower CPL result than the Site A — even when Site A has both a higher viewability and click-through rate. Of course, this scenario will sometimes be reversed, but the point is made: You should always direct ad-spend toward sources that best achieve your targeted ROI.
In short, it’s not only about ad viewability rates, it’s also about the cost.
For brand and performance campaigns alike, today’s programmatic buying environment enables ad-spend to be allocated in real-time to sources that deliver the lowest cost per action — sources that may not always have the highest ad viewability rates.