June 22, 2017 by Sara Jabbari

What is Video Viewability?

Today, video ads have become the most effective advertising medium, justifying the high rates advertisers pay to have their ads served on publishing websites. But how can these ads make an impact if they are not being seen by an audience? This is the problem of viewability: an ad served on a website does not always translate to an ad viewed on one.

What is viewability? 

Video ads are sometimes not viewed by users because they are simply not visible on the screen. The current industry standard for video viewability, as defined by the Media Rating Council (MRC) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), is that a video ad is viewable if at least 50% of it is visible on a user’s screen and plays for 2 consecutive seconds. Video ads can sometimes appear “above the fold”, where the video ad appears within the viewable browser space but is scrolled off-screen, or “below the fold”, at the bottom of the page, not visible to the user.

Because of the sheer size of the screen, more ads are likely to appear below-the-fold on desktop, which is why this device typically results in lower video viewability rates than on mobile and tablet. On desktop, roughly 53% of video ads are viewable, while on both tablet and smartphone, the viewability rate is around 82%. Another reason why desktop has a significantly lower viewability rate is because a video ad could become non-viewable if it plays on a different tab opened in the user’s web browser. The ease in which you can navigate away from one web page to another tab or window on desktop is why this channel results in a higher number of out-of-focus and therefore non-viewable video ads.

Why is this important?

According to Google, the average viewability rate of video ads across the web, excluding YouTube, is 54%, meaning that more than half of all video ads served on the internet are never actually seen by users. As a result, advertisers waste large amount of money on ads that don’t benefit their brands, making them more concerned with ad viewability. Viewability tracking has become an increasingly important practice for advertisers because it allows them to measure the success of their ads. To justify the high CPMs on video ads, advertisers are moving to a CPM model based on viewable CPMs, in which they pay only for impressions that are visible on users’ screens, putting more pressure on publishers to make sure the ads are viewable, or risk not getting paid.

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What can you do?

In order to ensure that a video ad passes the viewability score, publishers can do the following:

Adjust the position of the ad: Centering the video ad and placing it above the fold typically results in higher viewability rates. For below-the-fold video ads, they should load only when the user scrolls to it.

Increase video player size: By increasing the dimensions of the video player, you maximize the chance of the ad being seen. While there is no minimum size for video players, smaller sized ones have an impact on bids, fill-rate and CPM.

Optimize the load time of the web page: Video ads should load quickly with the rest of the webpage. By optimizing the speed of the site, and therefore the video ad, the viewability rate will go up

Install a “sticky”/“floating” video player: When a user scrolls past a video, the video will shrink and continue playing in the corner of the page. This format, such as Pulpix's Multitask View, allows users to seamlessly read an article and consume video content at the same time, boosting ad viewability.

By making adjustments that focus on increasing the number of viewable impressions, publishers can increase the value of their inventory and attract more advertisers, who benefit from an increased effectiveness of their ads. Of course, this effectiveness will ultimately depend on how engaging and relevant the video was to the user, making  advertisers responsible for ensuring that users who see the content are actually watching.

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