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Online ads need to be viewable for 14 seconds to be seen

Viewable online ads typically receive 0.7 seconds gaze time

Study reveals danger in optimising campaigns for viewability

Cluttered environments see ad gaze time drop 37%


London, 30 September 2016 – An online ad needs to be on the screen for 14 seconds to have any chance of being looked at, according to a new study on the relationship between viewability, gaze time, ad clutter and people’s ability to remember ads.

The study – by InSkin Media, Research Now and Sticky – involved four companies, nearly 4,300 consumers, and technologies including eye-tracking (by Sticky) and viewability measurement (by Moat).

Viewable vs actually looked at

Eye-tracking reveals that 25% of ads defined as viewable – i.e. meeting minimum industry guidelines of 50% of the pixels being on screen for least one second – are never looked at. One third achieve a gaze time (time spent actually looking at the ad) of less than a second, while only 42% are looked at for at least a second. The median time a viewable ad is actually gazed at is 0.7 seconds.

The study reveals how long an ad needs to be viewable in the first place to hit certain levels of gaze time. On average, to be looked at for up to a second an ad needs to be viewable for 14 seconds. Ads achieving at least one second of gaze time are viewable for an average of 26 seconds. For at least two seconds gaze time the average viewability is 33 seconds, while for 3+ seconds gaze time, average viewability is 37 seconds.

Viewable vs Looked at

*E.g. the average viewable time for ads that were looked at for at least 1 second was 26 seconds

How gaze time differs by ad format

This time people spend looking at ads differs significantly across four key formats covered – led by page takeovers at 7.5 seconds down to MPUs at 0.7 seconds.

How Gaze time differs by ad format

“A campaign should be assessed in three stages: did the ad have the opportunity to be seen, was it actually looked at and what was the impact,” said Steve Doyle, InSkin Media’s CCO. “It should be judged and optimised against the last stage (impact) but the focus on viewability means campaigns are increasingly optimised against the first stage (the opportunity) which can be counter-productive to maximising impact.

“Why? 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. Thus, it’s optimising on low engagement and low impact.”

How clutter affects ad recall

The study reveals how ad clutter impacts how long people look at ads and their ability to remember them. In cluttered scenarios, ad gaze time decreases by 37% on average across the formats.

Although page takeover formats aren’t affected, clutter means ad recall drops by an average of 20% across the other three formats – billboards, half-page’s and MPU’s – with billboards being most affected (-26%).

How ad recall levels are affected by ad clutter

“Ad clutter significantly reduces the attention each ad receives. This translates into weaker recall and lower ad effectiveness,” says Doyle. “Publishers must tread the fine line between more ads which drives more revenue, on a CPM basis, or less ads which mean stronger results for advertisers and a better user experience. It’s obvious which one is most conducive to long-term loyalty from clients and readers.”

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Methodology The study comprised three key elements. Research Now surveyed 4,279 UK adults (aged 18+) online. Of these, 696 eye-tracking records were collected by Sticky using their webcam technology. During these browsing sessions, Moat’s technology tracked the viewability of ads. The study used a monadic cell design, testing four display ad formats.

About InSkin Media InSkin Media is an advertising technology business, which develops high-impact, non-intrusive brand advertising formats. The company specialises in rich-media HTML5 display advertising across Desktop, Tablet and Smartphone devices.  Partnering with over 160 publishers and working across over 960 premium websites, globally, InSkin Media has delivered successful campaigns for over 850 blue-chip brand clients. Since its foundation in the UK in 2009, InSkin Media has gone from start-up, to profitable, international business, employing over 100 staff across its London, Hamburg, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai offices.

About Research Now Research Now Group, Inc., is the global leader in digital data collection to power analytics and insights. It enables confident, data driven decision making for its 3,700 market research, consulting, media, and corporate clients through access to millions of deeply profiled business professionals and consumers. The company has provided high quality, proprietary, research only online panel sample since 2001, and currently operates in over 40 countries from more than 20 offices around the globe with locations in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Research Now is recognised as the quality, scale, and customer satisfaction leader in the market research industry.

About Sticky Sticky is a leading behavioural and predictive marketing solution, measuring the world visually. With Sticky’s flagship platform, campaigns can be optimized using a variety of biometric data layers including eye tracking and emotion recognition. Sticky’s disruptive technology helps publishers, brand advertisers, and digital agencies optimize their content initiatives at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional methods. To learn more, follow @stickyai, visit, or contact

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