The Huge Benefits of New Digital Media Buying Standards

Online publishers often tout digital media buying as the most measurable approach to advertising. However, an ad won’t drive action if your audience never views it.

In 2013, ComScore research indicated that website visitors don’t see 46% of ads. This matters even more because many advertisers buy digital media on a standard cost per impression (CPM) basis, paying each time a website serves their ad. The model assumes that a visitor sees every ad that’s served, but there are two big holes in this approach:

  1. Visitors may navigate away from a webpage too quickly to see the ad.
  2. The ad may appear in a location that is not readily visible on the page (for example, too low on the screen for the visitor to see it).

As a result, buying digital media based on traditional impressions could be less reliable than print media buying, radio media buying, or TV. To help advertisers get greater value from their investment, publishers have begun moving to a new buying model: viewable impressions. Learn more about how it works.

Viewable CPM in Digital Ad Buying

Following months of industry debate, an initiative called Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) established a standard for the “viewable impression.”

A viewable impression for a display ad occurs when a minimum of 50% of the ad’s pixels are in view for a minimum of 1 second.

You can explore the complete guidelines on the Media Rating Council website. Viewability standards for video advertisements were also approved in June. Both may change the industry’s expectations for the performance and impact of  advertising. Consider these stats:

Several major ad networks, including Google, have responded to the new standard. Many now offer a way to purchase impressions on a viewable basis.

Trends and Potential Challenges

There are a few things to keep in mind as viewable impressions become an adopted standard.

It may not be available immediately through every publisher. Website owners may implement the standard slowly, as they need to determine how the shift will change their inventory, affect their revenue, and alter their pricing structure.

Traditionally inexpensive inventory may increase in price. Digital ads placed low on the webpage or in less obvious locations on a website typically cost less for a media buying agency to purchase. This is because of the assumption that visitors may not see the ads that are served. Viewable CPM may increase the value of these placements because publishers can demonstrate that visitors saw the ads.

Viewable impressions overall may come at a higher cost. Google suggests that a bid for a viewable CPM may need to be greater than a bid for a standard CPM campaign.

Systems for programmatic buying and real-time bidding may need to adapt their approach to buying digital media. In one solution, the winning bidder for an ad would not have to pay if no one views the ad.

Regardless of the challenges, the benefit of a viewable impression is clear: advertisers can know with greater certainty whether someone has seen their campaign. This means a more effective, data-driven buy and a standard that offers value for online advertisers and publishers alike.

If you are interested in digital advertising and would like to explore viewable impressions, contact our media buying company.

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