OPINION: No One Is Watching Your Video Ads


ADOTAS — Video content is booming. From news clips, to music and on-demand TV shows, more and more viewers are opting to watch and listen to their preferred content. For publishers, it has gone from an added extra on their site, to an integral part of their content offering.

Eighty-six percent of UK consumers, for example, access news online frequently and more than three quarters say that video improves their understanding of a story. More important still, eighty-five percent say video brings a news story to life, according to research by the Guardian, Deloitte and research company GfK.

With so many users engaging with video content, it is inevitable that advertisers have followed suit. The online video advertising market is thriving, with brands rushing to invest in the medium, as they migrate from floundering channels like print media, and jostling for display, pre-roll or wraparound space. The number of online video ads was up 205 per cent in 2013, according to comScore.

But with the medium’s growing popularity, a new issue has come to the fore: that of viewability, i.e. how many people are actually seeing your online ad. Incredibly, almost half of online display ads are never actually seen by website visitors, according to comScore, which means that billions of ads are being served but not seen.

This is happening for a number of reasons. Sometimes viewers have the option to skip or scroll off ads they don’t want to engage with. However, it might also be that due to a publisher’s website design or the ad’s placement, they simply don’t see them, like for instance, if an ad is served “below the fold” and users don’t scroll down. That ad has technically been loaded or ‘served’ to the user, but never actually gets seen.

As this debate unfolds, it is understandably having repercussions throughout the industry. YouTube, the world’s biggest video-sharing website, announced recently that it has started to audit the number of views a video on its site has received.

The move is intended to prevent users from artificially inflating view counts, which misleads both viewers and advertisers about the popularity of a video. It comes amid concerns that some content creators are using tools like redirects or “buying” views to improve their count.

YouTube has said it will now periodically validate the views on videos and remove the fraudulent ones from the total. This should come as a relief to advertisers attracted to the site by the huge number of users, who might be misled by audience figures into advertising against content without a genuine audience. If views have been fraudulently generated, advertisers are likely to miss the target audience and see little or no return on investment.

The issue of viewability is also having repercussions for billing, as advertisers realize that they may be paying for ads that their target audience don’t see.

One of the standard methods of billing by publishers is eCPM, where the price to advertisers is based on 1,000 impressions. However, the fact that ads are being served but not seen has altered the concept of an impression. The Media Rating Council (MRC) in the Unites States is therefore now championing a move from a ‘”oaded impression” to a “viewable impression” when it comes to calculating eCPM.

Having viewability as the new metric will ensure that advertisers don’t waste a huge proportion of their online advertising budget on branding and marketing messages that are not, in fact, reaching their desired audience

In the meantime, as the debate around viewability plays out in the market, marketers must do all they can to maximize the visibility of their online video ads.

One way to do this is by integrating contextual advertisements into the video content itself. In this way, instead of trying to distract consumers from the content they want to view in order to engage with them, ads will support their content experiences by providing a natural next step to a relevant brand or product.

In a similar vein, users are also much more likely to view and engage with an online video ad when it’s both useful and timely. Ads that therefore deliver a contextual experience that enhances the content by giving viewers information they actually want, when they want it, will prove far more appealing.

If marketers truly want to see a return on investment, they need to ensure that consumers both see and engage with their online video ads. The way to do that is to pay close attention to viewability figures and to make ads as relevant as possible.


  1. Another option is to deploy Are You a Human’s (yes that is a company) PlayThru for Video an add-on to existing pre-roll campaigns that grabs the attention of users – who normally tune out – by rewarding them for engaging with the brand. PlayThru for Video also enables advertisers to avoid invalid traffic, using Are You a Human’s verification technology to eliminate fraud, bots, and accidental clicks.

Comments are closed.