Average rates of display ad viewability across Europe fell by 5% in the last quarter of 2015, compared to Q3, meaning that just 58% of inventory is being seen by the user.

The latest Viewability Benchmarks report from Meetrics compiles the performance of ads across its four markets of operation: the UK, Germany, France and Austria. 

The report conforms to IAB guidance outlining that an ad must be at least 50% in view for at least one second to be considered ‘seen’. 

Since the start of last year, the duration of ad views has actually risen – up from 28.1 seconds in Q1 2015 to 31.4 seconds in the new report. But viewability is a worry, declining from 63% to 58% over the same period.

Britain takes a beating

Some markets have it much worse than others. In the UK, only half of the inventory served by display advertisers (50%) is in view. 

A table from Meetrics shows strong performances in Germany, France and Austria pushing the average up, but advertisers cannot be happy that between 35-50% of their MPUs, skyscrapers, leaderboards and half-page ads aren’t being viewed.

In all, the amount of wastage seen in those four markets across Q4 calculates to a loss of around €176 million in that quarter alone.

Anant Joshi, Meetrics’ director of international business, said: “After a bit of a rally, things seem to be getting worse again.

“Although in the UK, for example, the drop isn’t much, it’s the direction that’s more important. Current efforts to address the issue don’t seem to be working – either that or the efforts in one area are simply offsetting the inevitable falls generated by more automated buying.”

Safe areas

For advertisers wanting to know where their display ad spend is best positioned, Meetrics has compiled a guide of the units that are bucking the trend.

Sitebar units appear to be performing well above the average, being seen by 81% of users, while leaderboards are bringing the side down on 50%, albeit with a decent rate for ‘time in view’.

Of course, each market has its own labelling and standards for each piece of inventory, while units perform differently across each of these. 

In France, for example, the medium rectangle (to the side of the screen) averages 63% for viewability with an average duration 40.2 seconds.

Over in the UK, the very similar MPU manages 47%, with a duration of 31.2 seconds. 

The fluctuations in performance and duration, combined with the worrying drop in viewability, means there has seemingly never been a more important time to assess the performance of display advertising in 2016.