Google has finally fixed one of advertising’s worst-kept secrets: That advertisers frequently pay for web ads that have never been seen by consumers.
Up to 10% of all ads appear in positions that make it unlikely they were seen by human eyes, Google noted in a blog post on Friday. Those ads are often referred to as being “below the fold,” meaning they appear so far down a web page that a user would have to scroll down to encounter them — which most users never do. However, advertisers get charged for such ads simply because the ad impression was served, even though it may never have been seen by the target user.
Google’s solution is a system called ActiveView, which will rate ads for actual viewability. It’s just been endorsed by the Media Ratings Council — meaning it becomes an industry standard of sorts. AdExchanger reports:
“Viewability is the first critical building block – no other metric matters, from a brand’s perspective, if the ad wasn’t seen by an actual human being,” said Neal Mohan, Google’s VP of display, in an interview with AdExchanger. “Anything that we build on top of that, such as brand lift, as we announced with our Google Consumer Surveys product, follows from that first step of knowing if an ad has been viewed.”
To give you an idea of just how many ads are served in positions where users are unlikely to see them, take a look at these two charts that Google’s DoubleClick unit produced.
Up to 10% of ads are clicked on by users who have seen them for less than 1 second, suggesting that the clicks were accidental:
CTR = click through rate. BTF = below-the-fold.
The longer an ad is actually displayed to users, the higher the click-through rate:
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