Viewability a Huge Headache for Mobile Advertisers


Interested in buying ads that are never seen?

Clearly, the answer is no, and viewability issues on desktop computers are a known challenge to the industry. In fact, a study last year showed that digital marketers are getting ripped off, with most digital display ads never actually being seen by a live viewer.

So as more advertisers move to mobile ads – where the amount of fraudulent traffic should be dramatically lower — the viewability should increase, right?

Sorry, no.

“The conventional wisdom is that because screen sizes are smaller, mobile ads are more likely to be in view. A study from ad management company Sizmek says as much,” writes Lucia Moses in Digiday. “Viewability vendors argue otherwise, though.

“According to Moat, 50.5 percent of display ads on publisher sites it measures were viewable in the fourth quarter. But on mobile, that figure declined to 44.3 percent. Similarly, Integral Ad Science has found Web viewability rates average about 50 percent on mobile (with programmatically-sold ads measuring much lower than those sold direct) versus 57 percent on desktop,” Moses explains.

Why is this a problem? For one, mobile users are rapid swipers and scrollers, blowing past ads before they can even load, Moses explains. Also, a surprising number of publisher sites are still not optimized for mobile viewing (although we would expect that number to decrease dramatically with Google’s recent smack-down), and those non-optimized ads are shrunk out of existence.

The industry is working to address these issues by creating guidelines for viewability and mobile measurement, which might help avoid claims by companies like Facebook who say their ad is “viewable” as soon as any of it appears on a screen for any amount of time.

It looks like the de facto solution for now is to run ads in line with content, seriously disrupting the reader experience. Just by sheer odds, enough of those ads will likely be clicked on to call them “successful.”

It’s all a bit gross. These devices that we carry to make our personal lives more convenient have become one giant advertising machine that bombards us with stuff we don’t want to see and generally choose to ignore.

I guess you could call that progress?