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The ad impressions are spiking high. The advertisers are feeling ecstatic. The publishers are making money. And then there is a shocking revelation. Are these impressions coming from a real human?

No matter how effective your digital ad campaign is, it cannot add real value if it is not viewed by any real human. To resolve this, viewability as a metric was introduced to quantifiably measure how many ads are getting real exposure from users.

Before moving forward, let’s first understand the meaning of ad viewability.

What is Ad Viewability?

A viewable impression is a standard metric of ad viewability defined by the International Advertising Bureau (IAB). According to them, an ad will be considered viewable when it appears at least 50% on screen for more than one second. This metric helps the advertisers to get a quantifiable percentage of ads that are viewed by real people.

Why viewable impressions are important in digital advertising?

In digital advertising, there has been very slow growth in adapting technology which ensures that the impression received is real. This means that a real human has seen the creative. Finally, this change is beginning to be a reality.

Without a viewability metric, the advertisers cannot understand if their inventory is seen by people or not. Viewable impressions give a clear picture of how many ads are seen which further allows advertisers to precisely measure ad performance.

Viewability Standards By MRC

Many years ago, trade associations like the ANA left the advertisers in a dilemma of whether their ad was viewable or not. It was a genuine concern because if the ads are not viewable, then the scope of it impacting the digital marketing campaign is very less. This concern led to the setting up a standard of viewability by the Media Rating Council (MRC).

According to the defined standards set by the MRC, an ad will be considered viewable if:

  • 50% of a desktop display ad is in view for at least 1 second
  • 50% of pixels of a desktop video ad are in view for at least 2 seconds.
  • 30% of pixels of a large desktop ad unit (with 242,500 pixels) and larger is in view for at least 1 second.

Expectations Vs Reality (Viewable and viewed)

As per Statista, the viewability percentage of display ads in 2021 worldwide is almost 70 percent among which India has 55 percent. On the other hand, the video ad’s viewability is almost 74 percent according to Statista.

There is a thin line between the ad being viewable (had an opportunity to be seen) and being viewed (had been seen in reality). Data released by Amplified Intelligence throws light on the gap between “viewable” and “viewed”.


The advertisers are happy to see that the running campaigns are MRC compliant and receive an average of 70% impressions. They are expecting that this 70% is all human eyes. But here comes the horror.


According to the observation made by the Amplified Intelligence, out of the impressions served:

  • 44% are MRC compliant but receive irrelevant active attention (avg. half second)
  • 9% are MRC compliant but get zero attention.
  • 17% are both MRC compliant and getting attraction for at least 2 seconds.

This means that even the advertisers are thinking that they are paying for that 70% audience, but they are just paying for the 17%. And as a result, they don’t get the value as expected from the campaign.

What Impacts the Viewability of an Ad?

There are many factors affecting the viewability of an ad. Some of these are related to the website design and the ad placement. Whereas some are outside factors that are implanted by the fraudsters to churn money out of advertisers. Some of the common causes of poor viewability are:

1. Ad Blocker

There is a set of browser plugins and filters that prevents an ad from loading. By the time ad is loading, the ad blockers identify these ad slots and block the creatives. As a result, the ad space remains blank, and the user doesn’t know about the ad. However, these ads are considered as served impressions for the ad networks and the advertisers eventually pay for it.

2. Bot Impressions

A bot is an automated software program that performs pre-defined and repetitive tasks. These programs are technologically enabled by the fraudsters to download or refresh pages, scroll, click, and engage with the site content just like a real human. It is not easy to detect bots and most of the ad networks consider the bot traffic as real users. This further means that, the impressions served for the non-human visitors are counted as successful. It also reduces the viewability of the ads.

3. Ad Stacking

Ad stacking is a common trick practiced by fraudsters where they place the ads in layers. This means that there are layers of ads placed on top of one another. As a result, though only the top ad is visible, the hidden ads are also considered as served and hence being charged to the advertiser’s ad spend.

4. Pixel Stuffing

In this type of ad fraud, the fraudsters place 1×1 pixels around the website as placements for ad creatives. These pixels remain invisible to the visitor when the page loads, but it is considered “impressions served” for the ad networks.

5. Inactive Tabs

One of the most common reasons for low ad viewability is when the impression is counted in a situation where the user has left before the loading of the ad. Approximately, 40% of visitors leave a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Another situation is when the user has opened multiple tabs or continues to browse other programs during the ad is served. In this case, even though the user has not viewed the ad, the impressions are still counted.

6. Wrong Positioning

Sometimes the position of an ad is not accurate to the window dimension. This eventually creates in loading of the ad on certain types of devices. Another case is when the ads are placed at the “below the fold” position of an ad. This means that the visitor has to scroll down the page to see the ad. The viewability of these ads is very low as compared to the “above the fold” positioned ads.

7. Non-Human Traffic

Apart from the bots, there are other technologies that can generate impressions without any human presence. Some of these are download managers, spiders, web directories, link checkers, and web crawlers. These bots are sometimes planted by fraudsters for another purpose, but oftentimes due to these activities, the ad impressions are served and considered successful.

The Solution to Ad Viewability Fraud

mFilterIt offers a comprehensive Viewability Measurement Tool to improve the viewability of your ads in compliance with the MRC and IAB standards. When running a campaign paid on impressions such as programmatic, we add an MFilterIt tag which is served along with the creatives.

These tags measure viewability as well as act across various scenarios where certain sets of devices are used for ad impressions. It also helps us to detect brand unsafe placements and masked websites.

How Does It Look for the Publishers?

While approaching this big change in the digital ecosystem, the publishers will face some harsh realities like:

  • The measurement for viewability was already there in the market before 3MS brought it into the limelight. However, without a systematic cross-ecosystem like the 3MS, there would have been chaos to understand how the data affected transactions.
  • Now the publishers cannot go for brand dollars if they will not be able to showcase viewable impressions.
  • Without a certain metric for viewable impressions, a publisher cannot determine the brand impact. If no one has seen a brand, it cannot make an impact.


Viewability is a metric that is expected to see growth in the near future. It is expected that more advertisers will lean towards understanding how many real users are connecting with the ad campaign.

Ad viewability as a metric will also help in curbing the ad fraud ratio in ad campaigns and improve the results for advertisers if done in the right way.


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