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Why Online Display Ads Don’t Want to be Clicked

Yes, you read it right. An online advertising study has found that ad viewability and hover time are more strongly correlated with conversions (defined as purchases and requests for information) than clicks or total impressions.

Web research company comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) and Pretarget, an intent targeting company, released the results of their study today, April 24.

“Your ad being seen matters more than your ad being clicked – if you have a back-end conversion metric,” said Pretarget founder Keith Pieper. “After all, what good is an ad that can’t be seen? It’s intuitive that an ad must be seen to make an impact, and it’s even more intuitive than someone hovering and engaging with an ad might convert, even absent a click.”

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To arrive at these initial findings, Pretarget analyzed 263 million impressions over nine months across 18 advertisers in numerous verticals. Pretarget used comScore validated Campaign Essentials (vCE) to collect viewability and hover data and a Demand Side Platform (DSP) to collect click and cookie-based conversion data.

Pretarget then performed a Pearson correlation analysis of the data, including gross impressions, “views” (75 percent of ad within screen, either above the fold or after scrolling), time in-view, hover/engagements and total hover/engagement time, clicks and conversions.

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Traditional display ad impression measurement and reporting simply verifies the number of ads that were sent by an ad server to a user’s browser. For a variety of reasons, this way of counting impressions does not ensure that the ad ever rendered within a browser.

In addition, ads can load below the fold (requiring a user to scroll down), which means that most users will probably never see the ad unless they scroll down. In the worst cases, some ads load within 1×1 pixels and therefore never render as viewable impressions.

The research findings indicate that the traditional way of buying mass impressions and hoping for conversions (aka “spray and pray”) is not the most effective approach.

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