The Importance of Being Seen: Viewability and Brands

Friday, April 26, 2013 | 6:43 AM

Brand marketers since the “Mad Men” era have often sought insight to a simple question: ‘Was my ad seen?’ The answer was that your ad was published, your commercial ran, your online impression served on a web page, but it was impossible to say with certainty whether an ad was viewed or not. Thanks to leaps forward in digital technology and the hard work of many in the industry, it's now possible to measure whether an ad is viewable onscreen. Given this progress, it's not a matter of if this becomes the standard, but when.

We support a viewable impressions standard and have been partnering with the industry to push this forward. Today we've reached an important milestone on this journey - Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation for our viewability measurement solution, Active View, which we introduced last year.

"We are very pleased that Google has achieved accreditation for its Active View product" said George Ivie, CEO and Executive Director of the Media Rating Council.  "Viewable impressions are an important foundational improvement in digital measurement and an important step toward comparability with other electronic media."

Active View complements our other investments in making digital an effective medium for brand marketers and their awareness-building campaigns, like Lightbox ads and TrueView in AdMob and games. These efforts appear to be paying off for brand advertisers: we saw a 65 percent increase last quarter alone in the number of brand advertisers using our brand formats and buying tools.


The Active View Roadmap

Viewability has the power to transform the industry: improving the value of marketers’ spend, and of publishers’ sites. We’ve also designed this metric to be actionable, not just for after-the-fact reporting. Based on Active View, advertisers can buy reservable inventory on the Google Display Network (GDN), paying only for impressions that meet the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s proposed viewability standard - at least 50% on screen for one second or longer.

Effective metrics also serve as a universal currency, building an understanding between marketers and content creators about the best way to reach an audience, and the value of an ad on a page. This is why we’ll be building Active View into our products both for advertisers and publishers. In addition to its use on the GDN, Active View reporting will be available in DoubleClick for Advertisers and DoubleClick for Publishers in 2013. Long term, we see this becoming the new standard for how impressions are bought, sold and measured, replacing the “served impressions” metric we have today.

While many intuitively suspected that increased viewability would directly translate into better campaign performance, we now have data to back that up. On our network, we compared ads by the number of seconds they appeared on screen and found:

  • Users are more likely to click on viewable ads -- up to 21 times more.
  • Viewability can help publishers discover “gold below the fold,” with CTR doubling, on average, for below-the-fold inventory. On average, we’ve found that CTR is comparable for viewable above-the-fold and viewable below-the-fold inventory.
  • The longer users view an ad, the bigger the boost for click-through rates (we saw up to a 125% increase when an ad was viewed for more than 20 seconds).

Figure 1.  Comparison of CTR for viewable v. non-viewable ads, shown for all ads (left panel) and BTF inventory only (right panel) (100% = the average CTR of the specified dataset).




Figure 2.  CTR by viewable time, detail.

*Data source for all figures:  Google Display Network 2% sample from February 2013; display ads only; viewable = 50% onscreen.  In all figures, 100% on the y-axis denotes the average CTR across all ad queries in the specified dataset.


Google’s MRC accreditation, which currently applies to the Google Display Network and DoubleClick for Advertisers, was based on a thorough assessment of a number of factors, including the detection process, quality control and delivery standards.

With this accreditation, we are one step closer to making a viewable standard a reality for our partners. With better measurement, we think it's possible to unlock a new golden age of creation across the web, where users can enjoy great content, brands can connect with their customers and content creators can accelerate their growth.

Posted by Neal Mohan, Vice President, Display Advertising