34 clear facts explain Viewable Impressions and Ad Fraud

Viewable Impressions
Impressions are a media metric used to measure ad delivery.
In digital media, an impression occurs when an ad is called and served by a web browser. Each time an ad is served, it counts as an impression. It is counted whether the viewer is able to see the ad or not.
Viewable Impressions are an improvement. The IAB established this definition for the industry so there is a metric and standard for viewability. Viewable Impressions require that 50% of ad creative is viewable for at least one second.
Why does this matter? If your business buys online ads, you probably expect the impressions you were promised and charged represent people who saw your ad. But this is not what’s going on.
A good percentage of your ad buy is likely siphoned off by parties who have no intention of letting people view your ad. A practice called Ad Fraud.
How does this happen? What can you do? Here are 34 clear facts to explain Viewable Impressions and Ad Fraud.

  • 54% of ads aren’t viewable according to Comscore
  • 56% of ads don’t generate viewable impressions according to Google
  • 79% of mobile ads are viewable vs 48% for desktop so mobile does better than deskstop according to eMarketer

Viewer behavior. This represent the smallest percentage and occurs roughly 15% of the time.

  • Viewer leaves the page before 1 second is up
  • Viewer doesn’t scroll down far enough to see the ad
  • Viewer has ad-blocking software enabled
  • Viewer’s computer is missing a necessary plug-in to display interactive media
  • Viewer tries to open the page in a device that isn’t enabled
  • Ad loads, but in an area of the web page that is not within the viewer’s browser window
    dimensions and scrolling position

Bots. The page is opened by a proxy server or bot (not a real person). This is a large percentage. 60% of internet traffic is bots.

  • Bots mimic human behavior. They falsify what advertisers believe to be real human engagement while offering no potential for purchase or conversion.
  • Bots tend to be nocturnal and do most active surfing between 11 pm and 5 am (Wall Street Journal)
  • 36% of ad impressions are seen by Bots (Computerworld)
  • 23% of all video ad impressions are Bots (Adludi)
  • 19% of retargeted ads are consumed by Bots (Adludi)
  • 17% of programmatic inventory is viewed by Bots (Adludi)
  • 11% of all display impressions are from Bots (Adludi)
  • Sites related to finance, family and food have the highest percentages of Bot traffic, ranging from 16% to 22% (Wall Street Journal)
  • Tech, sports and science-related sites have among the lowest Bot percentages, ranging from 3% to 4% (Wall Street Journal)
  • $6.3 billion dollars in ad revenue have been lost to Bots in 2015 (Adludi)

Ad Fraud. This is the deliberate practice of attempting to serve ads from illegal ad servers with ads that have no potential to be viewed by a human user. It is a critical issue facing the digital marketing community today. 25% of online ad impressions are allegedly fraudulent.

  • For every $3 spent on ads, Ad Fraud takes $1 (Ad Age)
  • That’s $18.5 billion in ad revenue lost to Ad Fraud in 2015 (Ad Age)
  • Fraud thrives when advertisers measure the wrong events like page views, video views — those are events that both a human and a bot can do
  • Fraudulent impressions tend to come from older browsers, especially older versions of Internet Explorer
  • 37% of advertisers say they are willing to pay a premium of 11% or more for certified, human traffic (Ad Age)
  • 25% of publishers have no way to detect non-human traffic (Ad Age)
  • The worst losses by brands total $42 million. Large advertisers, such as Dell, Ford Motor, and MasterCard (Bloomberg Business)


  • 100% viewablility is not possible today. Viewable Impressions have been established as a standard to try to get there
  • 70% Viewable Impressions for campaigns is achievable according to the IAB after analyzing viewable data from over 240 billion impressions with ad management firm Sizmek

Publishers, agencies and media buyer should be pro-active taking steps to maximize Viewable Impressions and minimize Bots and  Ad Fraud. Here is what they should be doing.

  • MONITOR TRAFFIC WITH A CONSISTENT THIRD PARTY TOOL: Use monitoring and bot detection to reveal the Bots and Ad Fraud. This will prevent the purchase of additional media targeted and will improve campaign metrics
  • UPDATE BLACKLISTS FREQUENTLY AND NARROWLY: Establish a list once bots are identified and update it regularly
  • CONCENTRATE ADVERTISING DURING WAKING HOURS AND REDUCE BUYS ON OLDER BROWSERS:  Bot fraud levels vary across the day with peak activity occurring when users are sleeping, but their computers are still awake

If a campaign doesn’t achieve a 70% threshold on Viewable Impressions, the publisher, agency or buyer should make good by delivering this threshold. That’s doesn’t mean they need to provide a refund. It means they need to guarantee the media delivery.
Clients should ask agencies and media buyers if they are getting paid directly or indirectly by ad networks. Agencies and media buyers should understand from ad networks how they are combating Bot activity and any fraudulent behavior.  Ad networks should not turn a digital blind-eye to publishers who intentionally use bots to make profits off of advertisers.
Publishers, agencies and media buyers all know. If anyone gives vague answers or otherwise disparages such questions, that’s a red flag. The simple truth is if they are not working with you, they are working against you.
Does this help you understand Viewable Impressions and Ad Fraud?  And what you can do about it? Before you place your next ad buy, do you need any guidance to achieve the Viewable Impressions you deserve?

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