By Daniel Hunter

The level of online ad viewability in the UK has dropped noticeably over the last year, in the face of the rise in automated ad buying processes, according to a new report from European ad verification company Meetrics.

In Q2 2015, less than half (49%) of online ads served in the UK met the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) and Media Ratings Council’s recommendation that an ad is considered viewable if 50% of it is in view for at least one second. In Q2 2014, the viewability figure was 56%.

The UK figure of 49% is well below that of Germany (64%) and France (62%), where automated ad buying techniques, such as programmatic, are less dominant. A recent IAB study showed that 45% of UK display ads were bought programmatically in 2014, up from 28% in 2013. The IAB predicted this will rise to 70-80% by 2018.

“There’s no doubt programmatic brings many benefits to advertisers but there’s a flip side to every coin,” said Anant Joshi, Meetrics’ Director of International Business.

“It’s certainly less transparent than buying directly and there’s also a big question mark about the quality of much of the inventory sold this way and, clearly, that most of it never ends up being seen.

“Cross-referencing our data with the IAB’s digital ad spend report² suggests around £485 million last year was spent on display ads that weren’t seen. So, it’s vital that agencies, on behalf of their advertiser clients, demand more accountability from the vendors and middle men used to buy their media. One way is to ensure any vendors are rubber-stamped by JICWEBS that they meet industry-agreed standards for online ad trading.”

The report also showed that ‘Leaderboards’ were the least viewable (40%) ad format whilst ‘Billboards’ (68%) and ‘Skyscrapers’ (60%) were the most viewable. Furthermore, for ads that met the 50%/1 second viewability rule, the average time these ads were in view was 29.5 seconds.