Why you’re getting the wrong average exposure time, and how to fix it

Edward GeritsQuality & Control ManagerMore about Edward

Analysing the exposure time of your campaign helps you understand how long your ads are in-view across all impressions to all consumers. Using this information, you can optimise your campaign towards the perfect time in-view to influence your audience into action. However, the average exposure time is something that’s often miscalculated, yielding incorrect insights and leading to poor campaign optimisations. Here we review why exposure time is such a valuable metric, what often goes wrong in calculating average exposure time, how to get it right, and why it’s so important.

Average exposure time is often calculated across all impressions, including those which are in-view for an hour or more

Why optimise on exposure time?

Optimising the exposure time of your campaign helps you ensure your ads are in-view to your consumer for the perfect amount of time, winning attention and influencing your consumer towards a click or conversion. With viewability metrics, all in-view impressions are treated the same, whether they’re in-view for one second or 20, despite the impression that’s in-view for longer having a clear advantage in impact. Research shows that optimising exposure time increases click-through rates, while lowering the cost per action.

How average exposure time is miscalculated

Average exposure time is often calculated across all impressions, including those which are in-view for an hour or more (which often happens when a user has left their device unattended). In our experience of optimising time in-view in campaign management, the average exposure time of many websites is approximately 10-20 seconds. Therefore, it only takes a few impressions with an exposure time of one hour (3,600 seconds) to skew your average. These few extremes can impact a domain’s perceived performance, taking it from a poor average exposure time to something more reasonable. Branding campaigns often rely on average exposure time as an important metric for ensuring a campaign is seen by the target audience. While an average exposure time of 50 seconds might look impressive to many advertisers, it may be deceptive, with only 20% of users seeing the campaign for 15 seconds or longer.

The graph below illustrates this. Only 100 users were subject to 3,600 seconds of exposure time, yet this small percentage of users are responsible for a big chunk of the total exposure time.

How average exposure time is miscalculated

These huge amounts of exposure time don’t represent real value. Even if the user is active on the device and sees the ad for a full hour, an impression that’s in-view for such a long time is no more valuable than one that’s in-view for a few minutes.

When it’s a problem

This is an issue particularly when the call to action is near the end of the banner’s animation, often at around 15 seconds. If 80% of users have an exposure time of less than 15 seconds, they miss the call-to-action, which is crucial for getting that all-important click-through. Rather than focusing on the average exposure time to evaluate the success of a branding campaign, it’s better to focus on the individual exposure time and percentage of completed views, which is similar to video metrics widely used in the industry.

How to get average exposure time right

To use average exposure time as a leading metric, you can cap the exposure time of all individual impressions at a certain threshold, like 30 seconds in-view. The adjusted exposure time is calculated by evaluating the impressions with an extremely high exposure time as if they were in-view for no longer than 30 seconds, giving a much fairer indication of performance.

How to get average exposure time right

As you can see, the total exposure time for the 3,600 second bucket is now more in line with the rest. The (adjusted) average exposure time dropped from 50 seconds to about 10 seconds, which gives a much fairer reflection of the true performance for this campaign.

Use these tips for calculating your average exposure time and you’ll ensure you’re getting the correct insights to power your campaign optimisations. Improving the exposure time of your campaign will help you achieve your branding and performance goals faster. At Bannerconnect, our campaign operations and data science teams have the unique ability to move as many users from the lower end of the spectrum of time in-view (0-10 seconds in-view) towards a higher, more optimal time, such as 15-60 seconds. This empowers the advertiser to get more attention on their ads and tell their whole story, including that crucial call-to-action.

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Average exposure time is often calculated across all impressions, including those which are in-view for an hour or more