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77% of Display Ads are Never Seen: Sticky

  |  October 21, 2013   |  Comments

New research from Sticky finds that 77 percent of viewable ads are never seen.

Seventy-seven percent of Display ads are never seen, even those that are considered "viewable" (defined as fifty percent of an ad being visible to a user for one or more seconds).

At least, that is what Sticky has found in its latest research. Using an opt-in eyeball tracking solution, Sticky tracked five hundred consumers and found that only 51 percent of ads that are considered "viewable" were actually seen. They also found that advertisers have 1.7 seconds, on average, to engage consumers.


Sticky's finding is similar to a recent study conducted by comScore, who calculates that 54 percent of display ads are never seen.

While both Sticky and comScore's numbers are high, they are affirming what many have been assuming for a while. So why is this number so high? More importantly, how should this finding affect how you are planning your campaigns?

There are several reasons why such a large percentage of ads are never seen:

  1. Where the ad is placed on a page can have a large impact on viewability. Ads are often not seen if they are placed below the fold of a website, while the consumer is maintaining her concentration above the fold, or vice versa. If the ads are placed at the very top of a website, above the navigation, but a consumer is spending most of her time scrolling below the navigation, she may not see them. In addition, if an ad is placed within the rails of the page, but a consumer's browser is not set wide enough to show that area, then the ad may not be seen.
  2. The load time of an ad can also impact whether or not it is seen. If the load time is too slow, a consumer may navigate away before ever seeing the ad. This often occurs if the weight of the ad is very heavy due to the use of a lot of graphics or rich media features. Most ad servers count an impression when they receive a call from a webpage to serve the ad, versus waiting until the ad has fully loaded and is visible on the page. 
  3. Another large problem stems from consumers generally tuning out the ads. Most webpages have banners placed around the periphery, so it is very easy for a consumer to focus her eyes towards the middle of the page, where the content she desires to consume is located.

So how should advertisers and marketers plan around all of this?

To avoid media waste, consider weighting more value towards quality placements that align with the way users are consuming the content of the pages you wish to advertise on. For example, find out where your consumers are spending the most time on your partner's website, and specifically, where on the page they tend to maintain their concentration. If it is a news site and consumers are spending the majority of their time above the fold, look to place your media there. On the other hand, if it is an e-commerce type website, where consumers are scrolling for lengths below the fold, take this behavior into consideration.

If you are running a direct response campaign and purchasing media from ad networks and exchanges, you will not necessarily have the same control as you do in a direct buy, to be able to plan your placements against the behavior of consumers on a particular webpage. However, you can still track viewability and optimize for less media waste through solutions such as comScore's validated Campaign Essentials tool, Google's Active View tool and many others.

As for what to do about consumers tuning out your banners and narrowly looking at certain content on a page, well, that is the age old question that advertisers have been wrestling with for a while now. So far, the best solution advertisers have been able to come up with to combat this issue is to create unique, visionary, well-constructed ads, with concepts grounded in solid consumer insight.

Most importantly though, as you use tools to track viewability and optimize towards less media waste, keep an open dialogue with each of your media partners.

The industry is beginning to move towards viewability as a standard versus a regular impression. However, until we get there, it is important to work closely with your partners to plan around and optimize what you are seeing in your campaigns.

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Leah Block

As Media Supervisor for Overdrive Interactive in Boston, Leah is responsible for strategy development and campaign execution for a multitude of clients, spanning across various industry verticals. Her expertise is founded on numerous integrated roles, where she has been responsible for both traditional planning of print and out-of-home media as well as digital tactics including display, mobile, social, and paid search. Over the course of her career, she has serviced clients who were strictly focused on building brand equity as well as those focused on meeting aggressive direct response goals.

Leah is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a M.A. in advertising. She launched her career at MediaCom Interaction, New York.

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