Six Degrees of Ad Visibility

While it is relatively straightforward to define what constitutes a “viewable impression” for media trading purposes –a work-in-progress in the industry right now, the notion of ad visibility becomes a lot more subjective when considered from the user’s standpoint. To illustrate this point, consider the instances described below, wherein a banner may well fail to attract the eye in spite of being placed in full view:

•    Pitch black: at ground zero of ad visibility, ads are completely invisible, meaning they don’t even physically load and therefore have no chance of being viewed. Whether because of fraud or a technical glitch, the result is the same, a wasted impression.

•    Shielded: with users viewing the vast majority of online content above the fold, ads requiring a scroll down to be visible are much less likely to be seen.

•    Camouflaged: an ad may be perfectly viewable in the technical sense, but when displayed on a page cluttered with competing ads or other visual distractions, its chances of standing out and being noticed by users can be hampered.

•    Transparent: sometimes you can’t see something that’s staring you right in the face, simply because your mind is “miles away”.  If the brand featured in the ad is too dissimilar from the context of the page being viewed, it may fail to register with the user.

•    Out of focus: Similarly, if the user your ad is displayed to is not a current or potential consumer of your brand or the featured product, they are not likely to care very much, e.g. baby products ad displayed to a single guy, and will therefore be less noticeable.

•    In the Spotlight: Congratulations!  Your ad has made it to the front of the queue, ahead of all of the stimuli that compete for a user’s attention online. It is in full view, on an engaging site, placed within an appropriate context and the viewer it’s displayed to fits the consumer profile for your brand.

This ultimate degree of visibility obviously carries the most value for an advertiser and achieving “spotlight” status should be the strategic goal for any media vendor.

However,  this is still only just a start! Beyond being merely seen, an ad must above all be looked at. It must engage the user and elicit its intended response. That’s where the magic of creative comes into play… in the challenge to capture and retain the attention of the audience. Visibility, as imperative as it may be for someone to engage, take action or remember a brand, is only a condition, not a guarantee, for success.

For a chance of being noticed, advertising must reach "spotlight status"

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