Advertising is at its most effective when it is integrated into information content, as with a video. Or it must at least be clearly visible. By contrast, ads achieving a high number of clicks aren’t necessarily the ones making the most impact on the online audience.

High click rates don’t necessarily mean a display ad is a success

Can the impact of an online advertising campaign be judged by the number of ads sent from a server to a user’s browser? An online advertising study published by Comscore and Pretarget shows that the number of times a banner is clicked is basically not a sufficient guarantee that it is achieving success. According to the study, ad ‘viewability’ is a much better bet. In fact the number of clicks shows the lowest correlation (0.01) with the conversion rate – defined as a person either making a purchase or requesting product information – of people exposed to online advertising. It is especially interesting to compare this with the conversion correlation of instances where people ‘hover’ over an ad – for example when a pop-up ad appears at the bottom of a YouTube video – but don’t click. Such ‘hover/interaction’ shows a 0.49 correlation with conversion. 

Viewable impressions count

Instead of calculating the number of ads in pop-up format to which the online audience is exposed, a better way of assessing the impact of a campaign is the on-screen ‘viewability’ of the ad – i.e. how much of the ad actually renders within the screen. Viewable impressions, which correlate 0.35 with conversion, come second only to ad hover/interaction. And although many advertisers still currently bet on distributing their ad to as many people as possible, the study found that the impact of ‘gross impressions’ – meaning the total audience exposed to the ad – was significantly lower, showing only a 0.17 correlation with conversion.  So it would appear that advertisers and marketers ought to be ensuring their ad is fully viewable, not trying to judge the success of their campaigns by the number of clicks.

Obstacles to viewability 

The researchers point out that online advertisers face a number of problems. One example is that even when an ad loads and the recipient clicks on it, it may then appear in a place which isn’t very visible. Other studies which have previously been carried out have led to the same conclusions. The Ad Visibility Report from Casale Media published in 2011 showed for example that display ads appearing above the fold – i.e. on screen without the need to scroll down – were 6.7 times more efficient in terms of conversion than those appearing below the fold, which thus required the recipient to scroll down in order to view them.