New Research Finds That the Average Mobile Ad Takes 5 Seconds to Load

Media Rating Council shares its stats

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A week after issuing its first set of guidelines about mobile viewability, George Ivie, CEO and executive director of the Media Rating Council, explained what the changes mean for marketers during a presentation at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Mobile Marketplace conference today.

Per the MRC's draft (which is open for public feedback until April 30), mobile viewability should be measured the same as desktop viewability. That means that 50 percent of mobile display needs to be in view for one second, and video ads need to be in view for two seconds.

Ivie also shared some stats that the MRC has collected since beginning the process of putting together the guidelines in May 2015. The MRC's data includes more than 1 billion mobile impressions from roughly 12 data sources.

Per Ivie, the average load time for a mobile ad is five seconds. Load time had never been measured before this study by the MRC. Once the ad is loaded, marketers can then transact on viewability stats, he said.

The data also showed that on average, people start interacting with a mobile ad 1.5 seconds after it loads, slightly more than the one second standard for viewability. However, since engagement starts at 1.5 seconds, it can be inferred that the ad was "in-view" slightly earlier—closer to the one-second mark.

Similarly, people start interacting with the average mobile video ad two to three seconds after it loads.

Ivie added that one percent of the measured mobile ads actually had faster engagement rates than 1.5 percent for display or two to three seconds for video ads.

He also talked about the MRC's decision to not include newsfeed-style ads that run in apps like Facebook and Twitter as a part of the guidelines.

"The draft basically says, 'Use the desktop viewability parameters for everything,' but we're continuing to study a newsfeed environment," Ivie said. "We're studying cognition in that environment to figure out whether we need to modify the desktop standard."

He said one of the biggest challenges with newsfeed-style ads is that some claim that as long as the ad appears on a screen it can be counted as viewed, regardless of where it is placed on the page. But, mobile users scroll through newsfeeds much faster than desktop users.

"The truth is, if you pass by that ad so fast, you may not even be able to recognize the content," he said. "Just because it passes you by because you're scrolling so fast doesn't mean that you actually had the opportunity to see that ad."

There are also some interesting differences between mobile web and in-app ads:

  • Eighty percent of in-app ads load, and 80 percent of those meet the viewability requirements.
  • Twenty percent of in-app ads are served but never load on a page.
  • Seventy-four percent of mobile web ads are rendered, with 50 to 60 percent of those ads actually being defined as viewable.

The takeaway for media buyers is differentiating between labeling a mobile ad as loaded or served.

"Moving from served towards rendered for viewability decisions is actually quite significant," Ivie said.

Despite the challenges in measuring mobile ads, Ivie said that the real problem is figuring out how traditional metrics from TV translate to digital.

"Digital actually might be the easy part of this standard—the challenging part of this standard is legacy metrics," he said. "If you look at television right now, we don't measure commercials and trade on that currency, we trade on something which is the average rating for a minute that has commercial content—that can't really stand if you're going to make it apples-to-apples with what's going on with digital."

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.