ComScore: In-View Ads Vary Sharply by Site and Ad Type

  |  March 26, 2012   |  Comments

Examines ad viewability rates from 12 major brands, across nearly 2 billion impressions.

ComScore has issued more details from its vCE Charter Study, an ambitious research project that examined the "in-view" rates and other attributes of nearly 2 billion impressions from 12 major brands.

ClickZ earlier reported the central finding of the report, that 31 percent of display ads from those brands were not viewable by the end user. Among the other findings, released in a white paper today:

  • Ad viewability varied dramatically by site. On one property, 100 percent of ads were in view. On another, only 7 percent could be seen and the rest were wasted, drastically distorting whatever CPM the advertiser may have paid.
  • Among ad sizes, the 728x90 Classic Leaderboard scored the best in-view rates, with 74 percent of ads visible, although websites varied widely in performance, from 7 percent to 93 percent viewability for properties using this size. The 300x250 Medium Rectangle format delivered in-view rates of 69 percent, and the 160x600 Wide Skyscraper delivered the lowest at 66 percent.
  • There was almost no correlation between the price an advertiser paid and whether or not an ad was in-view. (ComScore's conclusion from this: "Sites with the ability to garner strong in-view rates are not being compensated fairly.")
  • 72 percent of campaigns had at least some ads served into "non-safe" environments, the definition of which can include adult sites, sites with hate speech, illegal drug websites, spam URLs, and sites pushing questionable software, among others. The actual percentage of impressions in those environments was very small - less than .01 percent. Even so, 92,000 people saw these ads, creating risks for the brand.
  • Campaigns targeting a specific age demographic reached that audience with 70 percent of their impressions. ComScore sees a trend away from age targeting, saying most ads were intended for an adult but the specific range was of secondary concern.
  • 37 percent of impressions were delivered to audiences with behavioral profiles that matched the brand's category focus. The more targeting attributes an advertiser layered in, the lower the delivery rate.

Among the participating brands were Allstate, Chrysler, Discover, eTrade, Ford, General Mills, HTC, Kelloggs, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, and Sprint. A total of 18 campaigns were examined across nearly 3,000 media placements. The total impression was 1.8 billion.

There is a growing movement in the ad industry to shift to a viewable rather than a served ad impression. Last September, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's 3Ms (Making Measurement Make Sense) initiative called on media buyers and sellers to move to the viewable impression standard.

ComScore is one of several vendors offering measurement solutions geared to in-view impressions. Others include C3 Metrics and RealVu. ComScore launched its solution, called validated Campaign Essentials, after which today's white paper is named, in January.

Anne Hunter, comScore SVP of advertising effectiveness, notes people have used above- or below-the-fold as a proxy to get to what makes a "viewable ad."

"The reality is that that is not necessarily a great method for figuring out if you really have viewable impressions," she said. "There were some places where below the fold was fabulous."

In one example, she said, a website delivered extremely high in-view rates by presenting both content and articles in 300 x 250 squares.

ComScore took pains to note all the ad impressions studied were delivered in iframes, including what are called "cross-domain" iframes, which have been historically hard to measure.

"We found 61 percent of the time impressions were served in cross-domain iframes. Being able to measure impressions in cross-domain iframes is critical to measuring impression validity," said Hunter.



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Zachary Rodgers

Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects. 

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