Google’s Report That 56% Of Ads Aren’t Seen Isn’t Shocking & Here’s Why
The company raised eyebrows with viewability research last week.
Last week, Google released new research on factors that impact ad viewability, which we covered here. There was one particular data point that raised eyebrows: 56.1 percent of impressions served across Google’s display advertising platforms, including the DoubleClick, aren’t viewable.
Wow, Google, the company that dominates the display advertising market, just admitted that over half the served through its platforms are never seen by the people advertisers are paying to reach.
Zing! Right? There are several reasons why this isn’t the huge bomb it looks like at first glance.
First, let’s remember Google didn’t bury this stat in some dreary report, but showcased it in an infographic. The company wants this data out there, and it’s certainly not releasing it in order to drive advertisers away from its products.
Second, this data isn’t far afield from what others have already reported.
Third, these kinds of numbers are why advertisers pushed so hard for the ad viewability standard in the first place.
We’ve Seen Similar Stats Before
Let’s look at how Google’s 56.1 percent un-veiwable impressions stat stacks up to other studies:
ComScore has released two key studies on viewability over the past couple of years.
In 2012, the analytics firm reported that 31 percent of display ads aren’t seen. This was based on a study 1.7 billion impressions from 18 campaigns by a dozen major brands. Much of the inventory was on premium publisher sites.
Then, in 2013, another comScore study found that 54 percent of display ads aren’t seen. Why the huge disparity between studies?
This time, also using vCE, comScore analyzed 290 billion impressions across a mix of advertisers and publishers, networks and exchanges rather than an small set of campaigns by elite advertisers.
One of the points that stood out in this second study was the difference in viewabilty between premium publishers and ad exchanges and networks. Over half (53 percent) of ads on premium publisher sites were viewable, compared to just 31 percent of ads on exchanges and networks.
Integral Ad Science, which powers the viewability measurement in Nielsen’s Online campaigns Ratings (OCR) reported similar findings in its Q3 2014 report:
- 53.4 percent of ad impressions served via direct publisher buys were viewable
- 36.7 percent from impressions on ad networks and exchanges were viewable
Weeding Out Bad Publishers
While both comScore and Integral Ad Science report fairly substantial differences between publisher and network and exchange impressions in terms of viewability, Google’s data highlights the differences in viewability among publishers.
Google makes a point of stressing that a small subset (10 percent or so) have terrible viewability numbers — below 35 percent. So while the overall percentage of ads that are un-viewable is 56.1 percent, on average, publishers have viewabilty rates of 50 percent.
With this stat, advertisers are encouraged to discover and weed out poor viewability inventory and “shift budgets and targets accordingly”. Publishers, meanwhile, are told to “aim for above 50 percent viewability” or face being culled out of ad buys.
Promoting Viewability As The Standard
So, no, Google’s numbers aren’t all that surprising, and certainly not shocking. But, of course, airing this dirty laundry was sure to grab attention. So why would Google report that advertisers have been wasting millions on ads that are never seen? To promote viewable impressions as the new standard and its own viewability measurement and ad buying capabilities.
Google’s viewability measurement tool, Active View, is integrated into both the Google Display Network and DoubleClick. Advertisers can monitor viewability rates and buy ads on a viewable impression basis rather than by served impressions.
Google also announced an update to DoubleClick Verification last week, which includes viewability monitoring, ad blocking, a content ratings system and spam filtering capabilities.
Finally, Google’s infographic also showed how certain ad sizes and page placements impact viewability rates and which verticals have higher viewability rates — all data discovered via Active View.