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Digital ad fraud: The viewability issue

March 25, 2015


You may have heard the disheartening stats about the percentage of digital ads that are actually seen by human beings. Marketers are paying for ads that are never viewed, or in some cases, served. (Funny, if we were talking about print advertising this would be okay; but in the digital realm, where everything is measurable, it’s fraudulent.) Here’s what you need to know.

ComScore found that about 50 percent of web ads go unseen.  And ComScore’s definition of viewability isn’t exactly stringent: viewable is counted as 50% of pixels remaining in view for at least half a second.

Ads aren’t seen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The user doesn’t scroll down
  • The ad doesn’t load in time
  • The user has an ad blocker
  • Fraudulent practices
  • Bots

Hold on to your hats–research shows that ads that are seen are more likely to drive action. (I know, I know. “Duh.”)  Marketers, we have a problem.

The solution

The first step in fixing the problem is acknowledging it. The viewability issue is earning a lot of attention—that’s a good thing.   Tech companies are working to build effective ad tracking systems—solutions that can help advertisers determine with certainty that they’re paying for ads that have been seen.  In the meantime, some publishers, including, are updating their site design to ensure that all ads are viewable. Industry-wide change is imminent. In the meantime, advertisers should speak openly with publisher and ad network partners to learn what’s being done to protect their marketing dollar.  Additionally, consider alternatives to display ads, such as content marketing – the practice of creating and distributing high quality content that educates your audience while aligning with your brand’s objectives.

Click here to read more about digital ad fraud.    


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