UK ad viewability reaches new highs, especially below the fold

Ad viewability in the UK has reached its highest level since 2014, according to ad verification firm Meetrics, continuing what is a clear upward trend.

Despite the improvement, UK ad viewability still sits some way behind other European competitors, ranking fifth out of the seven countries measured. Austria is the #1 performer, with 71% of ads deemed to be viewable, followed by Sweden ( 65%), Italy & Germany (both at 64%) and France ( 60%). Swiss ads, surprisingly, are the least viewable in the ranking ( 50%).

Max von Hilgers, chief executive and co-founder at Meetrics, told Research Live: “Four straight quarters of growth is a reliable indication the industry’s efforts to tackle viewability are paying off. Alongside this, campaigns are increasingly being optimised towards viewability and we’ve seen a drop in the number of impressions. This suggests a move towards more careful placements – a case of quality over quantity.”

In their survey Meetrics define an ad as being viewable should it meet the recommendation of both the IAB and Media Rating Council that half of the ad be viewable for at least one second.

The results come hot on the heels of a study by publishing technology firm Sovrn which found that below the fold adverts are ‘9 times more engaging than above the fold’. The study looked at over three billion engagement events covering 130 million page views, across more than 400 sites.

The research showed that below the fold (BTF) ad users were actively engaged for 27% of viewable dwell time, while above the fold (ATF) ad users were actively engaged for just 3% of viewable dwell time. Metrics also revealed that BTF ads are seen for 2.6 times longer than those ATF, offering far higher levels of engagement. With ATF placements costing significantly more, advertisers could be increasing engagement and saving budget by swapping to BTF placements.

Sovrn’s research also suggests that many viewable banners may well be in windows that are opened but never viewed or on pages that are immediately navigated away from.

Andy Evans, CMO at Sovrn commented, “Currently the industry prioritises viewability, or dwell time as a metric, but our research has highlighted that this is leading advertisers to make potentially costly decisions about their audience.

“We’re all guilty of opening browser tabs to look at content that we end up closing without even seeing the page, let alone an ad, and yet current metrics could end up counting these such instances, when they shouldn’t. By looking actively at engagement and various factors such as a click, scroll or tab changes, we can see that the user is engaged and increase the propensity to convert by targeting them in that moment.

Current viewability standards have also come under scrutiny from various industry commentators. Bo Sacks, who runs the longest standing newsletter in world publishing has been particularly vocal about ad standards across the industry. Writing in his newsletter this week, Sacks dismisses current web ad placement viewability standards as, “amazingly stupid” before adding, “if at least 60% of the ad is visible for one second, it is considered viewed by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau.) How’s your recall of 60% of anything in one second of time?

With the World Federation of Advertisers also warning last month that between 10 and 30 per cent of online advertising slots are never seen by consumers because of fraud, aside from visibility rules, the debate about ad standards and viewability thresholds is only set to continue. Indeed, the WFA stated at the time that, “one of the challenges for marketers is that different verification companies can produce very different average viewability rates for each market.”

Further reading:

The Drum: UK claws back lost ground as ad viewability measure sets new record

Research Live: UK ad viewability reaches new highs

Net Imperative: Below the fold adverts ‘9 times more engaging than above the fold’

World Federation of Advertisers: Global viewability improves for video but display lags