Although you won’t find it in the dictionary, the word viewability has recently become the latest buzzword in the lexicon of digital advertising.
With publishers racing to re-design their infrastructure in order to drive higher viewability metrics, isn’t it time to ask ourselves, does this really make advertising more effective?
Could it be that we are guilty of succumbing to the latest trend – of jumping on the viewability band-wagon with the unchallenged assumption that less viewable formats, or inventory below the fold is simply not impactful?
And in the process, are we in danger of closing the door to genuine integration, effectively preventing consumers from digesting content by thrusting ads in their faces – potentially leading to a negatively impacted user experience or worse still, driving the use of ad-blockers and banner blindness?
There’s an obvious argument that advertising which is discreet and seamlessly woven into the user experience is more effective. In particular, advertising that seeks to offer genuine and relevant alternatives to customers, though integrated or native messaging, adds value to the user experience. In a sense, it could be considered less as an ad, and more of a reminder or suggestion.
What we are talking about is advertising that enhances the user experience, not diminishes it, with the potential to create powerful synergies between ads and content.
Whatever your opinion, this is clearly a multifaceted issue which raises some important questions. As an industry, shouldn’t we challenge viewability as a metric rather than just accept it as the new paradigm? If not, are we running the risk of inflicting damage on ourselves by inadvertently encouraging the use of ad-blockers or stifling innovation by incentivising the practice of ‘sticking’ ads on pages to manipulate percentage results?
At the same time we need to be cautious. Who will have the authority to define what is viewable? After all, the market place is already crowded with multiple viewability tech verifiers responsible for driving evolving measures whilst protecting their cut of the market from advertisers and publishers.
With small screens fueling the growth of digital and with less supply for larger format, we’ll need to rethink performance generally. Feed/native will not necessarily be high percentage viewable, compared to floating placements, but will still be in critical space within a user journey.
At Gumtree we’re keeping an open mind but think there’s a balance to be struck between driving accountability of ad visibility and an awareness of the broader issues. Consequently, we are exploring the value of other performance criteria, such as contextual relevance and the number of ads on a page. For example, should we value more highly one or two adverts on a page as opposed to five or six? Or it is about the reach of a potential user or the share of engagement?
Ours is a dynamic and rapidly evolving industry, so we should expect challenges – perhaps even relish them. However, we must commit ourselves to finding the most effective solutions to those challenges – ones that prove themselves to ourselves and our advertisers – and never unquestioningly follow the path of least resistance. This is part of the ethos that drives innovation at Gumtree.