The industry is buzzing about viewability: What is it? Why are average rates so low? How much should I care? What are the real standards? Let’s answer a couple of these BIG questions now.


Viewability is an online advertising metric that aims to track only those impressions that can actually be seen by users. For example, if an ad is placed at the bottom of a site but the user doesn’t scroll down far enough to see where the ad is located, it is not considered a viewable impression. Typically, an advertiser pays for these impressions whether or not they are technically “viewable.”


According to a recent study released by Google, 56% of online ads are never seen. That’s a scary number and one that begs the question, “Why wouldn’t I demand 100% viewability?”

Higher-than-standard levels of viewability can often be guaranteed — but this drastically limits inventory and, consequently, can dramatically increase the cost of an impression. Nonviewable ad impressions are already priced into the cost of display inventory. Switching to 100% viewable impressions simply inflates media costs. After achieving 50% viewability, the cost-benefit ratio of the media cost begins to slip. Good viewability delivery can improve conversion rates by 8–9% — but at what cost? In an analysis of approximately 1B impressions, the Goodway Group found that sites delivering 30–40% viewability were actually the best value for the money due to lower achievable CPMs (thus, more overall impressions delivered). At 80% viewability and higher, campaign results can rarely justify the CPM (Liveintent, June 2016).


Consider this: What if newspaper or TV buys were held to digital viewability standards? CHAOS! Just because something can be measured, does not mean that measurement should become the sole basis of buying decisions. How many TV ads are skipped or play while a viewer is out of the room? How many newsstands sell 100% of every daily newspaper? Every media channel has waste and we structure and optimize buys to reduce that waste wherever possible. Digital media is simply more accountable.

Kazoo’s position on viewability does not differ dramatically from its position on digital media planning in general: Every campaign is different and must be built strategically to meet the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are important to each client’s goals.

Many vendors optimize for viewability and can even guarantee a delivered percentage. However, as outlined above, structuring a campaign in this way dramatically affects CPM and becomes the primary optimization criterion. This means that the campaign is optimized for viewability regardless of resulting performance in conversion or user engagement.

Many clients count on the efficiency and volume delivered by programmatic or otherwise-low-CPM and high-reach campaigns. Offering digital partners flexibility in initial targeting and optimization can result in valuable learnings about advertiser audiences and buyer profiles.

Viewability trends should not be discounted, but Kazoo recommends beginning with the end in mind. Whether that means a focus on full-circle reporting, bridging online exposure with offline results or honing in on a specific DR goal, we build recommendations based on goal achievement — not the latest industry buzz.

As the old adage goes, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” But in the world of digital media, we now have the capability to measure what ultimately matters most to advertisers — business outcomes and ROI.

For more information about existing IAB/MRC standards, measurability and what works best for your campaigns, please contact us.