Online ads need to be on screen for at least 14 seconds to have any chance of being looked at, suggests a new study by InSkin Media, Research Now and Sticky that examined the relationship between viewability, gaze time, ad clutter and ad memorability.
The study, which involved four ad tech companies and nearly 4,300 consumers, used eye-tracking technology from Sticky and viewability measurement by Moat to analyse browsing habits, then quizzed consumers about what ads they could remember.
The research found that 25 per cent of ads that met the minimum industry standards for viewability (with 50 per cent of pixels on screen for at least one second) were never looked at, while a third had a gaze time of less than a second. The median time viewable ads were actually looked at by consumers was only 0.7 seconds.
On average, to actually achieve a gaze time of up to one second, an ad had to be viewable for at least 14 seconds. Ads achieving at least one second of gaze time were viewable for an average of 26 seconds, while two seconds of gaze time meant 33 seconds of viewability.
"A campaign should be assessed in three stages: did the ads have the opportunity to be seen, was it actually looked at, and what was the impact," said Steve Doyle, InSkin Media's chief commercial officer. "It should be judged and optimised against the last stage, but the focus on viewability means campaigns are increasingly optimised against the first stage, which can be counter-productive to maximising impact.
"Smaller formats have higher 'opportunity to be seen' rates as their size means it's easier to hit viewability thresholds – but gaze time is very low. This, it's optimising on low engagement and low impact."
Format had a big impact on ad recall by consumers, with takeover ads remembered 52 per cent of the time, compared to 23 per cent for billboards, 21 per cent for half-page and 18 per cent for MPU.
Ad clutter also made a difference, with cluttered pages and layouts decreasing ad gaze time by 37 per cent on average across formats, and dropping ad recall by 20 per cent.