How Ad Refresh Affects Viewability | Smart React

Viewability is a key component of any successful monetization strategy in the context of real-time bidding. With all the industry developments in recent years, it’s importance has magnified even further, forcing publishers to put more emphasis on view frequency. This, however, brings a new challenge for webmasters who are utilizing a mix of different tactics to maximize their profits. Let’s explore one such example and take a deeper look at the relationship between viewability and ad refresh technologies. 

Viewability with ad refresh

How Ad Refreshing Works

On a conceptual level, Ad Refresh is pretty straightforward. In the traditional model, an ad unit would be loaded on the page and after a certain period of time a script would be triggered to reload it and display a new ad. It’s quite simple, and that’s exactly the problem. 

A standard ad reloading solution basically works on a timer and disregards any user activity. After the elapsed time, which is most commonly between 30 and 90 seconds, all enabled inventory will get a new set of ads. Unless specified otherwise, the script can keep doing this indefinitely, until the session is interrupted.

For publishers, this basically means generating more impressions with the same traffic, without increasing the amount of ads per page. It’s generally seen as a way for media owners to benefit from increased on-page engagement, which previously had very limited monetary value.

At first glance that may actually seem like a good idea, especially considering how many people leave browser tabs open in the background. More inventory, right? Not exactly. 

Viewability issues with ad refreshing

Regardless of who it’s measured by, view frequency always describes the ratio of viewed ads out of all impressions served. In a nutshell, that means it’s a game of percentages and the total number of viewed ads is actually irrelevant.

Because of that, traditional ad refreshing methods (the keyword here being traditional) bring inherent issues with viewability. A simple fact is that most ads are not viewable most of the time. That effect is only multiplied by ad reloading scripts, if implemented at a fixed interval.

To avoid complexity, let’s just look at ATF and BTF placements for context. 

In theory ATF units will be viewable most of the time, because they are right there on the page upon landing. However, this quickly changes once you introduce reloading. As the user starts browsing through the page, new impressions will be generated for the same unit. And with time on page increasing, so will the portion of these that aren’t viewable.

BTF placements have universally lower view rates, except when lazy loading is implemented for example. Generally speaking, the further down the page these are, the lower the view frequency will be. On top of that, this effect is multiplied the longer they stay off-screen. Ad Refresh is basically creating new inventory, while the overall amount of seen creatives pretty much remains the same.

As a consequence, traditional ad refreshing methods force publishers into a balancing act between inventory volumes and impression value. It all comes down to what delivers better performance at any given time – more inventory or higher viewability.

In fact, what usually happens with such scripts is that publishers see a performance spike in the beginning, which tapers off in time and ends up being a net negative in the end. 

The good news is that there is a more intelligent way of introducing the same functionality with far less diminishing returns. 

Smart Auto-Refresh Solutions / Smart React

Smart Ad Refresh (or smart auto-refresh) is a collective term that describes a range of scripts, meant to take reloading inventory to the next level. In most cases, these introduce user engagement into the mix and prevent the arbitrary generation of impressions, diminishing long-term value. 

Such technologies are a great way to make the most of highly engaged audiences, allowing publishers to increase their inventory volumes proportionately to engagement at low risk. That said, quality and performance with these really depend on how advanced the scripts are in reading user activity.

Commonly, smart ad refresh technologies would detect either page actions/events or time on screen, to determine when to send a new batch of ad calls. The idea is to only reload ad units when they’re being seen, maintaining viewability rates and respectively performance as high as possible.

For that exact purpose, we built our Smart React solution, which is one of the most sophisticated auto-refresh technologies on the market right now. It recognizes activity and ad visibility on a tab, viewport and placement level, combining that data to identify the optimal time to reload each individual ad unit. 

Want to find out more about Smart React and Smart React Lite? Get in touch with us today and our experts will help find the best integration solution for you.