Viewability is a big deal at the moment and you may be wondering why. Currently, marketers judge the effectiveness of a campaign using the impression model: tracking click-through rates (CTR) and cost per thousand. But the results are easy to skew and digital advertising has seen a rise in fraud thanks to the use of bots masquerading as humans. Essentially, when paying for your impressions, you’re potentially not paying for a guarantee that a human will view them.

In addition, a survey by Integral Ad Science demonstrated what study after study has proven: roughly half of all US banner advertisements served on advertising networks and exchanges during the second half of the 2013 fiscal year went unseen. When paying for your advertising, the possibility that your target audience won’t even see your ad on their screens, despite being served, can mean a large portion of your advertising budget is going to waste, especially when combined with fraudulent impressions.

As a result, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) earlier in 2014 reviewed standards for viewable impressions with large businesses in both the US and UK to determine industry standards that can provide robust metrics for use as a display ad trading currency. IAB’s director of data and industry programmes, Steve Chester, said “Moving to viewable impressions offers the valuable prospect of guaranteed impacts for advertisers, who in 2013 spent £1.9bn on digital display. As with any major change, a bedding-in period will be required to fully implement and take advantage of the benefits such as increased brand effectiveness of online, and address challenges such as discrepancies between viewability vendors.”

The move over to viewability, rather than confirmation an ad has been served, means that you can ensure your customers are not only seeing your advertising campaigns but also engaging with them. The IAB have issued guidelines on what constitutes viewability so you can be sure that, at a minimum, 50% of pixels making up your ad must be in the viewable portion of a browser for at least one second, ditto for video advertising but displayed for a minimum of two seconds, with larger formats droping to 30% for at least one second. It’s taken some years for the move towards viewability as an acceptable measure to become approved, despite calls to action since 2011 thanks to rather high levels of spending waste. The Media Rating Council has backed the change following the standardisation of viewable impressions by the IAB.

Viewability also ensures that a human view is being tracked, rather than a bot impression, as it requires that users are actually capable of interacting with the ads served to them, providing proof of a genuine view. As people are less likely to interact with an ad displayed for only one second, advertisers are calling for longer display times than the one and two seconds currently being set as the bottom line, and networks are now offering longer guarantees, particularly for the more expensive video ads.

While you may think that purchasing space direct from site, usually a way of guaranteeing premium inventory albeit at a higher cost, may be an alternative way to go to combat fraud and CTR issues – remember that increased cost doesn’t necessarily mean increased viewability numbers. Video advertising, which tends to be the most expensive of digital ads, can have just as low percentages thanks to the trend to follow served numbers rather than viewed. This change to viewability as a measure of success ensures that your ad is actually seen, making it the most effective choice.