To make an impact, ads have to be seen. There is no real value in advertisements that appear somewhere below the fold and do not get exposure because the user never scrolled down. Marketers are tired to gamble and want to be 100% sure that all impressions they are purchasing from publishers get desired attention. Ad Viewability measurement is the solution that helps media buyers understand how many of their ads were actually seen by online visitors. More details on the ad viewability measurement in the article below!

What is Ad Viewability?

Advertising Viewability is a campaign metric in digital advertising that allows marketers to track how many delivered ads were viewed by real humans. It gives marketers a clear idea of the total number of impressions that hit the audience and this way understand if they bring real value to the brand.

What is a Viewable Impression?

According to IAB standards, for small display ads such as 300*250 and 728*90 px banners, a viewable impression can be counted as such: if at least 50% of pixels are loaded and remain in a view for at least one continuous second - the ad can be considered viewable. Larger display ads, such as 970*250 and 300*1050 billboards can be considered viewable if at least 30% of an ad is in the viewer’s focus for a minimum of one second. As for video viewability advertising standards, desktop video ads must have at least 50% of pixels loaded and capture visitor’s attention for at least two consecutive seconds.

How to Measure Ad Viewability?

Ad Viewability Rate is most commonly expressed as a percentage. If you know how many viewable impressions and total served impressions you get from your advertising campaign, you can easily calculate the percentage of ad impressions that were viewable. To do so, use this formula:


Total viewable ad impressions: the number of ads that were successfully delivered, with at least 50% pixels loaded and were in a user’s view for a minimum of 1 second or longer (2 seconds for video ads).

Total served ad impressions: the number of ads that were successfully delivered on the web page by an ad server. Example: you get 300,000 overall served impressions with only 250,000 being viewed. In this case, your viewability rate will be 83.33%. It implies that the remaining 50,000 (16.67%) of impressions you’ve paid for never entered a user’s viewable area. The higher the ad visibility rate is, the better.

How does Ad Viewability Work?

Viewability measurement is only possible through a technology that is embedded within the ad creative. Such technology is a javascript tag that is attached to the ad that immediately activates in the user’s browser while the web page loads. The main goal of the visibility tracker is to gather information about the viewer’s environment: display resolution, browser window dimension, the positioning of the ad that appeared, the scroll position at the time an ad was served, the view time and other parameters.

The javascript viewability tracker launches automatically, being fully responsible for measuring the user’s behavior and determining whether an ad impression was viewable or not. Gathered data is then reported and sent back to the server-side database.

What are the Main Causes of Poor Ad Viewability?

There are many issues that cause ads not to be viewable to the user. This has to do with the website design, placement of the ads, user behavior and technological characteristics such as Internet connection, device type, screen size, and others.

Here are the most common six scenarios that will result in poor ad viewability:

  1. The user has enabled adblocking software. Ad blockers are browser plugins or filters that hide or disable ads from loading. When the page loads, the ad blocker identifies ad slots and hides ad creatives, leaving these placements blank. For the end-user, it seems like nothing is happening, but for the network, the ad is served, therefore it counts as an impression.
  2. Non-human or bot traffic. Created by humans, bots are programs that visit various websites and imitate human behavior: they scroll, click, refresh the feed, and engage with the content in a way a real user would. Ad networks cannot detect bot traffic, so they count every bot-generated impression as a successful one.
  3. The user leaves a web page before the ad loads. 40% of people abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Many users open multiple tabs at the same time and browse through other programs while the ad loads and renders. The most common case is when the user quits the page and the session is torn down, but the impression is still counted.
  4. Requests made by web crawlers, spiders, download managers, web-directories, link checkers, web filtering tools and other non-human technologies load the web page and generate ad impressions that are served successfully, but never get exposed to the human eye.
  5. Location of the ads. Some of the ads are located in the “down the fold” or “scrolling” position or do not fit into the window dimension, therefore cannot be spotted by the user.
  6. Ad stacking and pixel stuffing. When multiple ads are placed on the top of one another, with only the top one visible to the user, but impressions are reported for all layered ads. With pixel stuffing, a 1x1 pixel is placed on the site that loads as an ad creative but still not visible to the user. Such practices are fraudulent and illegal, but still take place in digital advertising.

In all these scenarios, ads are being served and displayed, but not available to the human eye. Despite this fact, advertisers are still getting billed for such impressions. Impressions that are not visible but included in CTR report misrepresent data, distort statistics and result in incorrect marketing conclusions. This leads to dramatic losses in marketing budgets and advertising revenues. And towards a publisher, this decreases the value of their ad inventory.

Why Should You Care about Advertising Viewability?

Publisher’s web page may be organized in many different manners. Ad units could appear on the top of the navigation bar, inside the primary content, on the right-hand sidebar or around the page footer. Not all of these ad placements get equal attention from visitors. For instance, users tend to focus on the central section of the web page first, and then slowly scan down from the left to the right. If ads are located in “hot spots”, they are more visible and ultimately get more clicks.

Alternatively, if an ad is located in a section that is viewed less frequently (for example, the bottom of the page), there is no guarantee that the user will see it. Therefore, advertisers may pay thousands of dollars for impressions that are served but never actually seen by visitors.

In 2013, comScore analyzed thousands of digital ad campaigns and released the shocking key finding that 54% of all paid impressions for display advertising have never been seen by users. This means that advertisers were blowing more than half of their budgets! The next year, Google confirmed a typical marketer's fear, stating that 51.6% of display impressions served within Google’s ad platforms and DoubleClick were not viewable.

SmartyAds Approach to Ad Viewability

SmartyAds combines the industry’s latest viewability standards with the proprietary ad fraud detection technology to offer the most sophisticated viewability coverage. We detect suspicious activity and all kinds of advertising fraud (bot traffic, pixel stuffing, domain spoofing, ad stacking) to give a real picture of your campaign performance. At the end of the day, fake and wasted impressions do not count. SmartyAds offers the best quality of ad inventory, and that is why we charge our clients for viewable impressions only.

SmartyAds Viewability plug alert allows advertisers to identify real human views, discover what type of ads generate more viewership and engagement, and provide an insight into which audiences and ad placements are the best for the brand.

Viewability is an essential metric for publishers as well because it helps to understand the real value of ad inventory and performance of each ad placement. The proper layout of the web page design is incredibly important because it has a major impact on traffic monetization. With SmartyAds Viewability metric, publishers can re-evaluate and adapt their content to make it more attractive for the first-tier demand partners.

Interested in SmartyAds Viewability metric that will help you to attract the real audience and ultimately increase sales? Then, reach out to today!

Written by
February 2018