Viewability Is Good, But Engagement Is The Better Metric

grantbrownsellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Grant Brown, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Rant.

We’ve heard a lot about viewability lately, with the IAB, MRC, ANA and other industry leaders passing significant milestones last year to make viewability a reality.

Viewability provides valuable relief against marketers’ valid concerns around bot fraud and wasted impressions, and should continue to serve as a key consideration for buying media. But viewability can’t be the end game, nor will it ever be 100% feasible. Viewability determines whether an ad was seen, but it doesn’t give insight into whether the consumer engaged with the ad in any meaningful way.

Did the consumer enjoy what he or she saw? Did the consumer gain any value or benefit from the content they read? Was the consumer motivated to learn more about a topic? These kinds of questions can’t be answered by viewability alone. That’s why publishers and brand marketers must push beyond viewability and focus on engagement as the key barometer to successful digital campaigns.

Many marketers focus on buying digital ads on a viewability basis. This is a great first step, but beyond the horizon, we will see marketers buy media based on consumed advertising, which refers to digital advertising that audiences spend time engaging with via reading, sharing or commenting.

Paying for Consumed Ads, Not Just Viewed Ads

While many have discussed engagement, consumed advertising represents a more holistic idea. Major stakeholders across the ecosystem, including advertisers, publishers and third-party vendors, need to be held more accountable to this concept for digital advertising to successfully evolve for the benefit of brands. Marketers need to re-evaluate their measures of success and publishers need to rethink their base offering, in terms of analytics. We’re starting to see creative pricing models where brands base media buys off of metrics other than viewable impressions and clicks, such as time on site.

Strategies That Drive Content Engagement

There are a few strategies marketers can adopt that don’t just promote the brand, but also drive better campaign engagement. The first strategy starts with brainstorming themes that will best resonate with various audience segments. Planning content campaigns around the event, such as Father’s Day, category- and product-related themes resonates particularly well with digital audiences. Brands can take this thematic approach further and stratify content across offline and online media channels to create a more integrated consumer experience. It’s not uncommon, for example, to see content partnerships between broadcast companies, digital publishers and brands around specific sporting events, such as college football games, to create brand awareness at physical stadiums and on digital sites simultaneously.

For marketers to maximize audience engagement, they also need to think about brand ownership of content across all digital channels, not just specific outlets. Today, there is no shortage of partners that can help brands create quality content, including agencies and third-party content creators. Once a piece of quality content is crafted, marketers should have full rights to distribute it across their own brand sites, publisher partners and social networks. By diversifying the content’s placement in contextually relevant channels, where their target audience will be the most receptive to their message, brands can improve engagement performance.

Don’t Forget About Display

As brands become more savvy engaging audiences with branded content, publishers will need to step up their game and think about how they can create media solutions that allow for continued innovation. Most native discussions focus on the branded content itself, but what about the rest of the site that surrounds the branded content? The areas above and to the sides of the branded content can serve as equally powerful real estate for connecting with consumers.

It’s no secret what publishers can do with these spots. Traditional display banners, despite recent apocalyptic predictions, still serve a critical role in the marketing funnel. Together with branded content, publishers have the opportunity to create even more immersive digital experiences for advertisers that enhance their message across multiple executions on the same page. As content increasingly becomes more vital to digital strategies, publishers should investigate new ways to leverage their properties for better brand storytelling.

Viewability is well on its way to becoming table-stake requirements to all future digital transactions, and marketers should continue regarding it as an important element to marketing programs and campaigns. However, engagement is a step above viewability. Brands that expand their thinking and pursue innovative ways to engage audiences, not just reach them, will bear deeper and longer-lasting relationships with their consumers.

Follow Rant (@RantMN) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Good POV Grant and I agree that Engagement is a strong metric, but in terms of establishing a standard, one that can serve as a new currency for the industry and that can be leveraged to help align buyers and sellers, it’s not Engagement…..not yet at least.

    It is however Viewability and publishers need to understand their Viewability Deficit ( and how to mitigate it.

    VB Deficit mitigation, or better said, Viewability Optimization, can be achieved by redesigning the site or introducing new ad units, as some pubs are doing, but also by understanding the negative impact the tech stack can have on the VB score.

    Cleaning up the stack can deliver higher Viewability scores and directly impact the top-line. Learn more about Viewability Optimization (