Viewability: How to Act on This Gift to Advertisers and Return to Advertising Transparency

Viewability and engagement signals provide advertisers with the right tools to measure ad effectiveness and to determine whether or not they’re spending their media dollars effectively. Two of the most powerful signals for determining effectiveness include viewability and, of course, engagement.

Smart advertisers need the right tools to measure ad effectiveness and to determine whether or not they spent their media dollars effectively. Two of the most powerful signals for determining effectiveness include viewability, which launched onto the digital scene in 2014 and, of course, engagement (clickthroughs, time-on-site, shares, likes, follows, etc.). But how should advertisers interpret and act on these signals? And when, if ever, do these metrics overlap with each other, when it comes to buying and optimizing media?

Depending on the advertiser’s objective with a given media initiative, the answers will become far clearer.

Determine Strategic Objectives

The fact is, engagement signals should be leveraged differently and at various times, based on overarching strategic objectives. For example, advertising initiatives designed to foster product or service evaluation may rely on clickthroughs and time-on-site as measurements of ad effectiveness, out of necessity. Because of the targeted nature of the initiative that aims to elicit a response, engagement signals make sense. Optimizing for high-engagement ads, while buying viewable impressions, will likely result in a more qualified audience … at a price that may, or may not, be worth it. The advertiser simply must decide what makes economic sense on a case-by-case basis.

If an advertiser wants to drive inspiration and consideration among potential customers, then getting in front of as many viewers with whom the advertiser’s product or service could resonate becomes the primary objective. In this case, engagement metrics may fall short, as would cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) since an impression, whether viewable or not, gets factored into that calculation. Relying solely on CPM gives only a partial indication of the effectiveness of the ad spend and no indication of the ad effectiveness, whatsoever. Enter viewability.

The Importance of Measuring Viewability

While still an imperfect measurement of ad effectiveness, viewability gives advertisers the option of only paying for impressions that were, in fact, “viewable.” While there has been some ambiguity around what qualifies as “viewable,” the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Center (MRC) have made strides in standardizing the industry’s definition (opens as a PDF) of “viewable.” According to its definition, an ad is only viewable if “a minimum of 50% of the ad is rendered on a user’s browser for a minimum of one second for display ads and two seconds for video ads.”

This improved transparency and common benchmark is critical, in order to continue growing upper-funnel channels and tactics by restoring advertiser faith in the impressions reported. By differentiating between impressions-served and impressions-viewed, advertisers at least have the choice to optimize toward impressions-viewed (at a higher CPM) vs. the opaque alternative.

Viewability Tools for Publishers

Now, even Google’s instituted a “viewability” signal for publishers in its Ad Exchange called “Active View.” Accredited by the MRC, Active View measures impressions generated across publishers’ websites and apps in real-time. Because advertisers increasingly opt to buy viewable impressions, Active View provides publishers with the information they need to increase the value of their display inventory, over time. Publishers with the most viewable inventory will benefit from this buying trend.

Viewability Is Long Overdue

It’s safe to say that viewability is critical and long overdue. It does not, nor should it, devalue engagement metrics. Viewability and engagement metrics can be leveraged simultaneously or irrespectively. Again, it’s important to consider what the advertiser aims to achieve and understand the broader shift in transparency viewability offers.

In full disclosure, I was reared as a direct response marketer, so I am naturally inclined to lean on engagement signals as measurements of ad effectiveness. However, the reflex to solely rely on these metrics can be myopic. If you, too, classify yourself as a direct response marketer, performance marketer or any other flashy way to describe advertisers who care about the bottom line, then I challenge you to question what those lexicons really mean.

Be on the lookout for viewability buzz to continue gaining steam and momentum. This data signal offers much more than a simplistic measurement of ad effectiveness. It provides a return to advertising transparency that has been long under siege in the world of display. It’s a positive step and has its place in enhancing the way we think about buying media.

The Importance of Using Social Media in B2B Advertising

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays.

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays. Facebook, Instagram Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all have their place and purpose in B2B brand building; after all, business decision-makers have social lives and social accounts, too. While users may not immediately be in a business mindset when using Facebook or Instagram, tailored content that serves as an introduction can unobtrusively spark interest.

Of course, when designing a B2B social campaign, advertisers must take a few considerations into account. First, budgets and campaign goals will determine which, if not all, platforms get play. Second, the strategy and what the advertiser is trying to accomplish will determine the rest. Finally, advertisers must have KPIs that make sense; using cost-per-acquisition (CPA) or ROI to measure the performance of social initiatives in a B2B context is illogical. Instead, employ engagement, or reach measurements to gauge effectiveness.

Seeing Through the Personal to Identify and Engage B2B Decision Makers 

Like many people, business decision-makers have active social accounts in some form or another. And while we use those accounts in different ways, it’s likely that most social media users aren’t out there to actively seek out business solutions. However, adjusting that mindset to unobtrusively make an introduction is a beneficial approach.

Start by casting a wide net of curated content, which can be an inexpensive way to deliver reach. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., can all exceed the reach of most B2B media, but the reach behemoth is Facebook. To keep the cost-per-thousand impression (CPMs) low, stick with broader targeting and a broader message, capture those who engage and retarget them with more specific messages. How-tos and tips do well in this regard and can serve as a logical entry point. This content could be the advertiser’s own blog posts, videos, etc.; anything low-penetration and with a somewhat native feel that offers quick information that’s relevant to their business can pique their interest.

With that in mind, sponsored organic posts are likely to be more effective than run-of-the-mill ads at delivering content that the desired audience cares about. For example, a cyber security company may provide content that speaks to the risk of cyber hacking, or about whether standard firewalls and antivirus software is enough to keep most companies out of risk. This content is pertinent, educational, easy to absorb and potentially solves a business problem.

Once established, relationships can be grown and nurtured in other ways. Engagement metrics can be used to hone-in-on individuals who expressed interest in the advertised product/service by clicking through the content to your website.

LinkedIn’s Expanding Role in B2B Advertising

Social media extends beyond the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. Sites like LinkedIn can be especially powerful in B2B social advertising. While sites like Facebook and Instagram are the right place to push low-penetration content that grabs attention, LinkedIn is better for in-depth content like whitepapers and thought leadership, as users are likely already in a business mindset and thus further down the funnel. Whitepaper downloads can be an effective way of acquiring new customers; if a consumer is imbibing content, then they are actively seeking information and/or solutions.

Of particular note, Bing Ads recently announced LinkedIn profile targeting for text ads, shopping campaigns and dynamic search ads, meaning LinkedIn data on company, job function and/or industry can now be leveraged in Bing Ads to enhance targeting. These audiences can even be layered on to less efficient search campaigns like competitor campaigns that serve as great conquesting tactics, but oftentimes are too inefficient for an evergreen strategy. Layering on enhanced audiences from LinkedIn can mitigate waste and improve campaign viability.

This data integration is unique to Bing, meaning the data can’t be accessed and used in Google to enhance the effectiveness of search campaigns there. While third-party providers can provide similar information, it’s not LinkedIn data specifically, which is self-reported and usually very accurate. With this integration, it’s likely that Bing’s market share with B2B advertisers will increase given this impressive new value proposition.

Considerations for a Social B2B Push

Considerations for a social B2B advertising push include the usual aspects associated with almost any type of digital campaign: budget, overall strategy, the business’ industry, and platform limitations. But beyond those, here are social B2B advertising considerations that should remain front and center:

  1. Know your target consumer. Use Facebook Audience Insights to understand who your customers are and what kind of media they consume, and if there are any topics or interests that would interest them. This includes knowing what kind of business problems they have for which your product can solve. Consider targeting via industry, job title, interest in particular trade publications or affiliation with organizations closely related to your solution.
  1. Understand the platforms. Learn how to leverage the various social platforms to achieve your marketing objective and how to measure the results (clicks, downloads, etc.). Leverage Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to introduce your product/service to net new customers. Leverage LinkedIn for more in-depth content like white papers and thought leadership.
  1. Go native. Understand how content promotion varies by platform. The key is engaging the audience as natively as possible. Use visual-focused content for Instagram; link to strong content for Pinterest; making everything easily digestible for Facebook.
  1. Build the relationship: Use engagement metrics to hone, refine and qualify audiences. Present the refined audiences with different content that helps push them further down the funnel and builds upon the recently-established relationship.

Busting the B2B Social Media Myth

While social media may not seem like the most natural method for engaging business decision makers on the surface, it’s short-sighted to believe that social channels cannot be effective for B2B advertising. The desired consumer exists on these platforms — after all, most of them use social media just like the rest of the world; the key is determining the best way to engage them based on their platform of choice.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can be effective platforms to introduce business decision makers to your brand through content that discusses information they’d likely find useful, in a format that feels native to the platform. From there, retargeting lists can be generated with users who engaged with the content to further build the relationship and move them down the purchase funnel.