Viewability Falls Short When Measuring Ad Campaign Success

Author: Aaron Peabody

Viewability is a controversial metric within the programmatic advertising industry. The original intention of the metric was to combat the systemic problem of ads being deemed as unviewable (ads never seen by a human). Despite the sound logic of Viewability for cookie traffic, there are problems that surround advertisers relying on this metric as a foundation for deeming their ads to be accurately placed, or using it as a tool to judge the efficacy of their campaigns. When it comes to household level segmentation and targeting (the El Toro methodology), viewability is on non essential element for judging the effectiveness of the campaign.

The first reason viewability falls short is that few parties agree upon what actually deems an ad to be “viewable.” There are various sources that cite differing amounts of time and pixel requirements to deem an ad to be viewable. The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) defines a “viewable” impression as one that’s at least fifty percent visible for at least one second. However, a majority of organizations that have participated in the discussion of viewability also have an economic interest in the programmatic space, thus creating a bias infused in this metrics original design. There also has been a lack of clarity defining where on the page that ad needs to be placed in order for it to be “viewable.”

A lot of agencies require 100% viewability on ad placement. Afterall, it is in their best interest to guarantee that creatives are seen by human beings. However, just because an ad is 100% viewable, does not mean it was seen by a human being. Within the origins of the Digital Advertising industry, the cookie was the only method available for targeting purposes. Advertisers became increasingly concerned with the quality of their ad placements within cookie based programmatic networks. Therefore, the exchanges offered a “measurement” that would calculate ad efficacy in an automated fashion for traffic validation. They also began using this as a tool to ensure that the ad was “in fact” seen by a human being.

There are nuances to this though. If an ad is 100% viewable, this is usually indicative of it being highly suspect, or just flat out fraudulent. Again, this is because traditional methods of digital advertising rely heavily upon cookies, as well as container-based and javascript based programmatic targeting. These targeting methods are ridden with fraud and bad-actors (non-human traffic) specifically designed to game a metric like viewability. These scripts can run up and down web pages viewing ads in an automated fashion that would trigger all the proper associations to deem an ad viewable. Of course some websites garner higher volumes of fraudulent traffic than others, but simply relying on the proper placement of the ad being indicative of human traffic is a “hopeful” disposition.

At El Toro, we choose to reject using viewability as a metric for successful placement altogether and pursue an honest and authenticated way of validating ad traffic.

El Toro’s technology targets individuals based upon their IP addresses being mapped to physical addresses with a minimum 95% degree of statistical accuracy. Therefore, our entire method for validating traffic occurs at the household level, rather than the exchange level. With insight into web traffic loads coming from physical locations, we can rule out bad actors, botnets, crawlers, scripps, ad replay, fraudulent traffic, and other anomalies. From this methodology, we can guarantee at a minimum 95% confidence level that your ads are being seen by real people. With that said, we choose to focus on campaign ROI rather than viewability. The way we do this is through our MatchBack Analysis process. With our ability to target one-to-one in the programmatic space, we can tie attribution for both online and offline sales by cross referencing the transactional data file against the original targeting list. From there, we can show our clients the conversions that occurred from the original audience list, line by line, informing us of the verifiable success of the campaign. This is the essence of the El Toro value proposition.