Understanding Mobile Advertising Viewability


The definitive visual guide that answers the question, “Was our ad actually seen by a human?”. The process to determine this seemingly straigh-forward question is complicated, particularly on mobile devices. To find a solution, we’ve broken down the entire ad serving process and outlined the main players, technologies and factors causing issues for publishers and advertisers alike.

Why is it so hard to track on mobile?
In short, there are a lot of moving parts to consider. Data signals required to understand if an ad was viewed are not trivial to capture, especially in in-app environment.

Tracking pixels are no longer sufficient, and adding additional vendors and tech only increases the potential for errors. Today, mobile viewability requires a holistic approach. Fully-integrated solutions allow advertisers to verify every part of the system is working.

Additional factors impacting campaign success:

  • Media
  • Targeting
  • Fraud
  • Delivery
  • Safety
  • Creative
  • Viewability
  • Reach
  • Measurement

Viewability is one piece of the puzzle. Other factors such as audience targeting, engaging creative and accurate tracking can also impact a campaigns’ performance.

Timing – The Lifespan of a Mobile Ad

A typical mobile ad is requested, analyzed, bid on, approved, served, and interacted with by a user in under half a second. Often times, it interacts with upwards of 20 intermediate technologies to optimize the campaign.

Why is viewability important?
If an ad is served but never seen by a human, do I pay for it?
Until now, the answer has been “Yes”. Non-viewable ads lead to media and technical waste that drag down campaign performance dramatically. In fact, the industry spends much of its time thinking about, preventing, and detecting viewability issues because it’s one of the single largest levers we can pull to move the needle on campaign performance. Campaigns that have ads that are seen by humans will always outperformance those that don’t by an order of magnitude on any real KPI. So who should be taking responsibility for ensuring mobile ads are viewable?

Placement – A Group Effort to Improve the Industry

A main challenge with viewability is that no one party can solve it alone with current state of the industry. As illustrated below, a collective effort must be ensured at all levels – from developer to advertiser to publisher and back again – to begin to detect, prevent and correct the problem in real-time. Doing so requires seamless integration, communication and transparency between every vendor involved (which is rarely the case today).

Delivery – Creative Unit Types and Data Collection Options

Today’s mobile advertising options are expansive. A variety of sizes and functionality means marketers have the opportunity to create engaging experiences for consumers on their tables and phones. However, this range of integration requires additional layers of technology to standardize a clean and consistent hand-off of creative and data between advertisers and the publishers they use.

Viewable Impression Requirements – MRC – Accredited Measurer Requirements

The ad is “In focus” (>50% of the pixels are visible) for at least 1 second.
The impression adheres to specific “Ad Container” and “Ad Unit” measurement techniques for reporting purposes.

Understanding Mobile Advertising Viewability