Does More Programmatic Buying Equal Less Viewability? The View From Three Countries

Germany and France Delivery Higher Viewability than U.K., Study Says

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Anant Joshi
Anant Joshi
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The more a country embraces programmatic buying, the less likely the ads served there are able to be seen, a study of Germany, France and the U.K. is suggesting.

In the U.K., where 45% of ads were bought programmatically in 2014, only 49% were viewable in the second quarter of this year, down from 56% in the same period last year, according to the study, by ad verification company Meetrics.

But in Germany and France, where programmatic buying is behind U.K. and U.S. levels, 64% and 62% of online display ads were viewable in the second quarter of 2015, respectively.

A display ad meets the industry's definition of "viewable" if at least half of its pixels appear in view on a consumer's screen for at least one second.

Elaborate automated targeting and other programmatic techniques aim to put marketers in front of the right people at the right time, but too often it serves ads in locations that aren't likely to be noticed, according to Anant Joshi, director of international business for Meetrics. Some $757 million was wasted last year on U.K. ads that weren't seen, he estimated.

"The benefit of programmatic is better targeting -- which should make it more cost effective, and is why is continues to grow," he said. "But there are serious viewability issues."

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 70% to 80% of ads will be bought programmatically in the U.K. by 2018, up from 28% in 2013.

Google research last year found that, globally, as few as 46% of ads met the "viewable" standard.

Among ad formats, "leaderboards" across the top and bottom of a web page are the least viewable ad format, meeting the definition 40% of the time, while wide billboards a bit below the top fared better at 68% and tall, vertical skyscrapers achieved 60% viewability.