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Viewability and how brands can ensure that ads are seen

By Rohan Patil

What is the point of an advertisement that isn’t seen? The answer is that there isn’t one. If you’re an advertiser trying to extend brand awareness, creating an advert that isn’t seen enough is, in the end, an exercise in futility.

And, worst of all, it doesn’t necessarily come without a cost. Notwithstanding spending on creative, adverts that aren’t seen widely or at all can still hit you heavily in the pocket.

From TV campaigns that promise audiences, but don’t deliver through to websites overloaded with visually noisy banner ads, you may spend money to reach consumers that aren’t there or aren’t engaged.

The secret to successful advertising on the web and within mobile is therefore about generating meaningful views from the right consumers. By doing that, you won’t just increase awareness of your brand or your app; you’ll likely increase the quality of engagement from your customers.

How can you ensure viewability though? Here is our advice on how to make sure your brand advertising is truly visible online.

The right place – determining the context

The first thing you’ll need to consider when embarking on brand advertising online is weighing up the pros and cons of mobile or desktop for your adverts.

From a pure numbers perspective, there is considerable evidence to suggest that more eyeballs will be directed at mobile devices. According to comScore, the mobile audience is now larger than the desktop user base. And a study from KPCB suggests that time spent on mobile devices is now greater than the time spent on desktop on average each day.

That, however, doesn’t answer the question of how to increase viewability for your advert. To do that, you need to think about and consider the aims of your marketing campaigns to work out which context will work for parts of your adverts.

In desktop’s favour, users will be more willing to consume adverts within longer continuous sessions. Reading articles, viewing longer videos and exploring social media within a professional context (such as social media management), there are a number of opportunities for advertisers on desktop to reach a user in a different device context. Furthermore, larger screen sizes of 13 inches upwards provide more room for banner advertising, rich media ads and other premium formats.

Meanwhile, mobile has the advantage of providing a more personal context for advertising. Though there is physically less room to advertise on the platform, the ability to advertise through apps and the mobile web straight into the user’s hand is a powerful opportunity for someone honing their message.

Ultimately, you’ll probably settle on a mixture of both formats, especially when a service like YouTube offers advertising options to a cross-device audience. But deciding the balance will come largely down to what type of audience you end up aiming for.

The right audience – targeting, programmatic and picking channels

Brand awareness advertising campaigns have always benefitted from reaching larger audiences. But with billions of users in the digital market, alongside millions of apps and websites to compete or promote in, brand advertisers need to do something to segment their audience down.

The easiest way to do this is by discerning an audience type and using programmatic options to reach them. Services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer detailed targeting options, allowing you to create and advertise to very particular audiences.

By creating “lookalike” audiences ahead of (and after a positively performing) campaign, you can ensure you reach the audiences most likely to react well to your brand. And by using a programmatic provider, you can buy advertising to scale – reaching a significant audience with little resource input.

However, platforms like Facebook tend to support the needs of performance advertisers more than brand advertisers. To find your right audience, you need to think broader and consider the channels where different parts of your audience may find you.

A service marketing to professionals may find that the advertising in the New York Times is the best way to reach someone; a game advertiser may pay a prominent ‘YouTuber’ to show off the best aspects of their titles to a broader audience; an event may find Snapchat’s discover channel a great way to broadcast out to relevant users.

The key to reaching the right users is, therefore, understanding your audience. By knowing what they are like demographically, what their interests are and, crucially, where opinion forming takes place, then you can use programmatic and native approaches to reach them.

The right format – adapting to your audience

Finally, as an offshoot of the previous point, the right advertising format is a really important for increasing the visibility for your brand and app campaigns online.

Returning to the example of advertising within The New York Times, the company has found that native editorial advertising that challenges its regular editorial in terms of quality has found an audience amongst users.

Therefore, you need to select your formats based on what your audience will like. Younger, mobile heavy device users will tend towards preferring video adverts and video content from the likes of YouTube; adult listeners on mobile may respond well to pre and post record podcast advertisements; rich media interstitials may work well on sites where users spend a long time engaged and reading.

But you will also need to consider where adverts are placed. On the web, that means making sure that any adverts you place don’t disrupt the user experience, increase load times and appear in areas that won’t be seen (such as the middle of a lengthy piece of copy).

As for adverts within mobile contexts, you’ll want to ensure that your advertising does not disrupt the user flow. While this is technically the responsibility of the game or app publisher, you don’t want your brand campaign to stop someone achieving a new high score or stopping them when they’re using a utility.

The best solution is to find the natural format for your audience and to fit into naturally with the channel they find it in. Whether that’s through native advertising or through careful integration by the publisher, it’s an important pre-condition for allowing your brand message to be seen in a positive light by users.

The right ad, the right time, the right user

Ultimately, the key aim of any brand advertiser is to be in the right place at the right time. By working out who your audience is, targeting them accurately, working out where they like to consume content and utilizing formats that fit with their tastes, you can ensure that your brand adverts will stand out from the crowd.

Avoiding the viewability problem in the digital and mobile space is a tough challenge. But if you approach your task with the hope of serving the right ad at the right time to the right user, you can give your brand the best.

The author leads Strategic Partnerships at CompareAsiaGroup/ He is an investor and also the former Managing Director of AppLift India


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