Why Viewability Metrics Aren’t Relevant for Premium Mobile Video

The digital advertising industry has been abuzz with talk of viewability. Defined loosely as the rate at which an ad is actually viewed by its target audience, viewability has become a key concern for advertisers – and rightly so. Advertisers pay for their ads to be seen, after all, and they don’t much like forking over ad budgets for impressions that never actually make it to a screen. Since video ads are typically more expensive than display ads, video viewability becomes that much more crucial.

Viewability may be the focus du jour in trade articles and on conference panels, but few in our space have asked the question: When it comes to premium mobile video, is viewability even a necessary metric?

The simple answer is no, it’s not, and the reason has to do with the very definition of premium mobile video.

Premium mobile video ads (pre-rolls or mid-rolls that run in video content) have all the important attributes brand marketers like – high completion rates, immersive engagement, and a fair value exchange with consumers seeking great content.

First, let’s talk about completion rates. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) standard for video ad completion is any video impression watched through the third quartile. While premium mobile video completion rates regularly exceed 85 percent, desktop video completion rates hover around the mid-60 percent range.

Super high completion rates sound great in theory, but how do we know these viewers are actually seeing the ads? Premium mobile video ads are both full-screen and immersive, which means that unlike desktop video where it’s easy to switch screens while ads run before a viewer’s chosen content, mobile video ads take up the entire screen at once. Switch out of the video player and the video will likely stop playing, meaning you’ll have to start the video (and the ad) all over again in order to see it.

And why do they watch that ad? They watch the ad because in premium mobile environments, there is a fair value exchange between the free video content and the 15- to 30-second ad viewers are asked to watch beforehand. Thanks to frequency controls and short, well-targeted ad pods, viewers perceive it as “fair” to watch an ad. It’s something they’re used to from television, but because the ad pods are short and because they are not skippable (unlike long, DVR-ed commercial breaks), viewers simply watch the ad.

It’s clearly not that viewability isn’t an important metric for brand advertising – it definitely is. It’s that high-quality content and the full-screen nature of mobile video make viewing premium mobile video ads truly native to the experience. When it comes down to it, there’s simply no room in the definition of premium for “unviewability.”

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