User experience and ad viewability: Defining the key aspects of ad quality

Viewability has become a very crucial metric today in digital advertising and much of the ad spends by brands now depend on it, writes Pankaj Sharma, Country Head, MGID, India

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User experience and ad viewability: Defining the key aspects of ad quality

Pankaj Sharma

As an advertiser, what is your primary motivation to run digital ads? The obvious answer is to reach existing as well as new audience and convert them into paying customers. Reaching out to the second type of audience demographic may take some time, but it still is the end goal you wish to achieve from your ad campaigns. For a campaign to be successful, it is imperative that the campaign manager keeps a constant check on its performance and makes changes or optimises it whenever required. There is a list of advertising metrics that all campaign managers follow, and two crucial components of this list are user experience and ad viewability.

It is easy to understand why maintaining ad quality is important. Metrics such as LTV, clicks, impressions, CPV, CPA, CPC, etc., help keep track of the campaign’s performance. These metrics can also give real-time information whether you are reaching out to the right audience, overspending your budget, or getting the best rates for the inventory you are buying. However, advertisers also need to keep the needs or expectations of the audience in mind when forming their campaign strategy and that is where user experience and ad viewability play a key role.

What is ad viewability?

Ad viewability is measured as actual ads users see as opposed to the total number of ads that are loaded on a web page. So, if a user visits a webpage and scrolls through 2 ad units then even though the total number of ads on the page are 4, viewability would be counted as 2. As per the IAB, a user should be able to see a minimum of 50% ad pixels for more than one second in case of static ads.

Viewability is a relatively new term and metric in the digital universe. In a report on digital static ads, comScore stated that 54% of the ads are not seen by users even though advertisers pay for 100% of the ads. From there, viewability of ads became not just a metric but also a compliance for publishers.

Does increased viewability impact user experience?

There has been a lot of debate around how ad viewability impacts the experience of the user. This is in addition to ongoing discussions on how publishers and advertisers can ensure users have a good experience with ads so that they actively engage with the ad as well. There are different types of ads that publishers integrate on their websites and some of these can become intrusive for users like sticky ads, jumpy pages, and pop-ups among others. Some websites put in codes that do not allow the user to scroll forward till all the ads have loaded to increase their viewability. Some publishers are looking at re-designing their entire website to ensure 100% viewability. Such forced viewable ad formats and approaches spoil the experience of the user, which reduces the percentage of return users on the website and the overall user engagement.

As a practice, ads should be a part of a website, but they should not interrupt the user experience or the user’s interaction with the content. There is a lot of focus on improving the user experience today because approaches such as contextual targeting and native advertising have shown that user experience leads to better engagement and response from the user. A poor user experience would be bad not just for the brand; even publishers lose CPMs when they experience a high bounce rate or lose users. That is why along with viewability, user experience has also been added to the list of metrics that one should measure to check the quality of ads.

How can ad viewability and user experience be balanced?

There is no doubt that advertisers and publishers need to work together to create visible ad formats that are not obstructive or intrusive for the audience. Native ads are an excellent format to engage with the users on a website. Native ads typically mimic the look and feel of the webpage where they have been placed, which helps the ad merge with the content on the page. Also, native ads maintain the contextual relevance of the webpage because of which users find them more appealing, thus increasing the probability of a user clicking on the ad.

AdTech companies have also been working on improving ad viewability on the ads they serve across publishers and platforms.

  • AdTech companies serve their ads through widgets that are implemented on publisher websites that load or show an ad only when a user scrolls to that position on the page where the widget has been implemented. In this way, impressions are not wasted by unnecessarily loading ads even though no one is seeing them.
  • Another feature is an AI-based algorithm that identifies the highest performing ad spots or ad placements within a webpage and automatically displays a relevant ad on the in-content impact widget. This helps in showing users ads that are contextually relevant, thus improving the user experience. Publishers, too, get the advantage of better CPM rates.

Viewability has become a very crucial metric today in digital advertising and much of the ad spends by brands now depend on it. Publishers and AdTech companies need to ensure they are delivering on these metrics if they want brands to increase their spends on their platforms. As technology progresses, we will, no doubt, see many more formats and metrics emerge that will help advertisers and publishers alike. However, with increased focus on user data privacy, experience, and engagement, the user will become the centre of all such innovations.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

India MGID Pankaj Sharma