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Research: Three in Ten Display Ads Unseen

Published on April 10, 2012

This is becoming an oft-told tale—the paid-for but unseen ad.

As eMarketer describes, “ad impressions” are treated synonymously with ad views, but findings from comScore and ad verification provider AdSafe Media reveal that raw impressions do not deliver the value advertisers believe it does.

comScore analyzed the display ad campaigns of 12 major brand advertisers, and found that on average, 69% of ads were in-view (meaning, a user saw 50% of the ad or more for at least one second). The larger the website, generally, the greater the percentage of in-view display ads. The top 50 sites for each brand’s vertical had the highest in-view percentage at 77%; that percentage declined to 70% among the top 500 sites, and to 61% among the “long-tail” sites, after that top 500 cutoff.

Publisher ads were more likely to be in-view than those from networks and exchanges (the other two inventory sources). Just 24.3% of publisher ads were never in-view, compared to 45.5% of platform and exchange ads and 41.3% of network ads. Clearly, publishers know their field.

The size of an ad unit also affects how frequently an ad is in-view. comScore found that leaderboard ad units (728x90 units displayed across the top of a page) were in-view most often: 74% of the time. Medium rectangles were in-view 69% of the time, and wide skyscrapers (spanning vertically down the page) had the lowest in-view rate (66%). That is because users must often scroll down the page to see these ads in full.

The uptake is that a significant number of all display ads served never make a branding impact. The digital ad industry is attempting to rectify the problem with its Making Measurement Make Sense (3Ms) initiative. This initiative, led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s). The initiative calls for a set of standards across the industry and the need for a true measure of ‘viewable impressions’.