Three in 10 Display Ads Go Unseen by Internet Users

Brand advertisers are accustomed to paying for views—both on TV and online. In the digital world, impressions have long served as a proxy for views, but findings from comScore and ad verification solutions company AdSafe Media found that paying for raw impressions is costing brand advertisers money not correlated to effectiveness.

To better understand the true number of display ad impressions seen by internet users, comScore analyzed the display ad campaigns of 12 major brand advertisers. The study found that an average of just 69% of ads were in-view. By comScore’s definition, to be in-view, a user had to have seen 50% of an ad’s pixels for at least 1 second.

The larger the website, the greater the percentage of in-view display ads. The top 50 sites for each brand’s industry vertical, as classified by comScore’s MediaMetrix ratings, had the highest in-view percentage (77%). That number declined when broadening to the top 100 sites (74%) and top 500 sites (70%).

The fact that larger publishers’ sites tend to have greater quantity and variety of premium ad inventory space could be one influencing factor. And additional data from AdSafe Media showed publisher sites had a greater percentage of in-view ads than ad networks and exchanges.

On average, publisher ads were more likely to be in-view than those from the other two inventory sources: Just 24.3% of publisher ads were never in-view, compared to 45.5% of platform and exchange ads and 41.3% of network ads.

The size of the ad unit also appeared to affect how frequently the add was in-view. comScore found leaderboard ad units—728×90 units displayed across the top of a page—were in-view most often: 74% of the time. Medium rectangles were in-view 69% of the time, and wide skyscrapers—ads that typically span vertically down the page—had the lowest in-view rate (66%). This is unsurprising, given that users must often scroll down the page to see these ads in full.

Regardless of ad size and placement, it’s undeniable that a good portion of all display ads served never make their branding impact. The digital ad industry is working to correct this problem through the Making Measurement Make Sense (3Ms) initiative. Among their many goals, the group aims to standardize digital branding measures so advertisers can better quantify the true impact of display advertising efforts. Such standardization could also affect future ad-pricing models as well as expectations that inventory providers’ should show greater accountability and transparency for units sold.


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