Even though viewable impressions represent a huge improvement over CPC or CPM, marketers still must ask for specific time slots in order to ensure they aren't wasting their budgets.
After years of concern over suspicious click-through rates and fraudulent bot traffic, the digital advertising industry made a quantum leap from CPC and CPM to selling viewable impressions. While viewable impressions guarantee that human beings will actually see your ads on their screens, not all viewable impressions are created equal. If you want people to actually engage with your ads, you need to buy viewable impressions with guaranteed time slots.
When ad sellers can’t offer you specific time slots (e.g. 10, 15, or 20 seconds), they’re probably selling viewable impressions that only meet the bare minimum standard. According to guidelines released by the Media Rating Council (MRC) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in June, viewable display ad impressions are counted when at least 50 percent of the pixels in the advertisement are on "an in-focus browser tab on the viewable space of the browser page" for at least one continuous second. For viewable video ad impressions, the ad must be on the viewable space and play for two continuous seconds.
While these minimum standards ensure that bots won’t artificially drive up your metrics and costs, one or two seconds is not enough time to ensure that people actually engaged with your ad. Think about it from a viewer’s perspective. When people are scrolling through a news blog scanning for headlines, what will your display ad really accomplish if it’s in their browser window for one second? If you created a 20-second video ad, what will viewers really take away from the first two seconds?
If your ad platform can’t guarantee viewable time slots, you’re not spending your ad budget as effectively as you could be. Today especially, digital ads are becoming more about engagement and affinity and less about click-throughs. Advertisers aim to provide entertainment, information, and experiences rather than flashing "50% OFF" banners. If you’re investing in high-quality creative work, you need time slots to ensure return on investment (ROI).
To be sure, even at the bare minimum standard, buying viewable impressions is a huge improvement over the old CPC and CPM models. Solve Media reports that in 2014, fraudulent bot traffic will likely cost the display advertising industry $11.6 billion. When 54 percent of standard display ads are never seen by a human being, switching from CPC/CPM to viewable impressions is the only logical choice.
In 2015, you won’t be deceived by bots and poor page placements, but ad sellers will still try to talk you into buying viewable impressions that merely hit the one- and two-second standards for display and videos ads. Don’t waste your budget. Use an ad platform that can offer guaranteed viewable impression time slots.