What are Viewed Impressions? – Digital Nugget #4

By Jeff Cracolici

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Marketing Manager & Digital Expert

The section surrounded by the blue dotted line is what you see when the MSN.com is first loaded. Anything in grey is not seen until you scroll. Ads highlighted in red have been served, so an impression is being registered, but are considered Unviewable until you scroll down to their position.


As in your personal life, Digital Marketers care a lot about Impressions – especially good impressions.

In the online world, Impressions (also referred to as Ad Impressions) are instances when an ad is placed on a webpage. On almost every platform, advertisers have the option to be charged on a per-1,000-impression basis.

Going a step further, there are two flavors of impressions, Viewable and Unviewable. A Viewable Impression is when at least 50% of the ad comes into view on a user’s screen for at least one second, so there is an honest chance that the ad could be seen by an internet user. Unviewable Impressions do not meet this threshold, and typically never appear on the screen at all.

Many platforms tend to charge advertisers for every impression – regardless if it was Viewable or Unviewable – and about 54% of all ads are infact Unviewable. Even the ad giant Google estimates that as much as 56.1% of their ads are Unviewable. That’s incredible.

As you can imagine, marketers are not taking kindly to the fact that 54% of their budgets are just being thrown away. To relate this to Direct Marketing, would you pay for every name on a mailed list if you found out that 54% of those names had no chance of receiving your offer? Of course not!

What’s Makes an Impression Unviewable?

The largest culprit of Unviewable Impressions involves the relationship between where the ad is placed on a webpage and how far down the internet user scrolls on that page.

If, for example, your ad was placed at the end of an article and the user never scrolls to where the ad is positioned, the ad never had an honest chance of being seen. Since the ad was placed on the webpage it counts as an impression, but it is deemed Unviewable since it never came into the user’s field of vision.

Another cause for a high level of Unviewable Impressions are robots that illegally load a page periodically to inflate the amount of impressions served. In this case, even if your ad met the threshold of 50% for one second, human eyes never saw the ad. No matter the case, these count as Unviewable Impressions.

The Rise of the “Viewed Impression.”

Due to the issues between Viewable and Unviewable Impressions, a new metric, “Viewed Impressions,” has been popping up and gaining popularity. Viewed Impressions assures advertisers they are only being charged every time their ad is placed AND had an honest chance to be seen by an internet user.

On the surface this maybe a simple fix, but for Digital Marketers this is extremely important. Hopefully in the coming months more publishers get onboard with this and Viewed Impressions become the new standard.

About LiftEngine

Since 2005, LiftEngine's primary mission has been to help clients better understand and connect with their most responsive prospects and customers, online or offline. Our expertise is behind the marketing campaigns of 400+ clients.

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Published on Jul. 27, 2015, Last Updated on Jun. 15, 2022