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Ad Refresh Q1 review: Innovation in ad viewability

By Ana Kealy

May 27, 2024

Table of Contents: 

Introduction: Strike the right balance of website content versus advertising

EXADS is a white-label ad serving technology provider. Our self-service display advertising platform helps ad networks, publishers, and advertisers achieve their advertising goals. Innovation in ad tech is constantly changing and it's a fine balance between Publishers monetizing their content with ads while ensuring a great end user ad experience. A website’s end user should be able to enjoy its content without being bombarded with ads, finding the right balance for the number of ad zones on a website's pages is key. If an end user sees too many ads, then they are unlikely to stay for long on the website, or never visit the website again. A website that has engaging content and the right amount of ads will have long term users who keep coming back to view its content. These types of end users are considered quality end users, and in turn this equates to the website site having quality traffic sources. Quality traffic sources are the most desired target market by Advertisers. This is because, if the website has just a few ad zones on each webpage, the advertiser’s ad has more visibility because it is not competing with many other ads from advertisers. Additionally, less ads per page ensures a great ad viewing experience for end users and they can click on ads that are relevant to their needs.

Here lies the dilemma: How can a Publisher's website serve more ads to end users to increase revenue earning opportunities, whilst maintaining the right balance of website content versus advertising, and ensure that each advertiser is getting the best visibility for their ad?

This is why EXADS introduced a new feature for Publishers in late 2023 called Ad Refresh, a tool based in innovation in ad viewability which allows publishers to refresh ad content on multiple banner ad zones, including Responsive Display Ads, on their website. 

The Ad Refresh Feature: Innovation in ad viewability

What is Ad Refresh? A great end user ad experience

Ad Refresh allows Publishers to refresh ad content on their web pages within various Display Banner ad zones, providing a great end user ad experience. This allows Publishers to serve not one, but Publishers can serve several ads per user, per user session. So the more time an end user spends on a page section that has an Ad Refresh ad zone, the more ads they will get the chance to view. This also helps them strike the right balance of website content versus advertising.

Why is ad viewability an important metric to track? The logic that Ad Refresh uses, is based on innovation in ad viewability, which is an Ad Best Practice recommended by Google, because in order to refresh, an ad zone needs to be directly viewed by an end user in real-time, which promotes high viewability rates. That means that, when an end user decides to spend some time on a web page reading or watching the website's content, only the ad zone that is on the visible part of their device’s screen will refresh.

How does Ad Refresh work? Serve several ads per user per user session

Why is ad viewability an important metric to track? For example, let's say a website's webpage has a Header Banner at the top of the webpage and a Footer Banner at the bottom of the webpage. If an end user is browsing content on the website that is displayed close to the Header Banner ad zone, the Header Banner is visible to the end user while viewing the webpage’s content. Ad Refresh allows the webpage to display different timed ads within the Header Banner ad zone. Therefore, the Header Banner ad zone will refresh with a new ad based on a time setting decided by the owner of the website in order to serve several ads per user per user session.

Getting the refresh rate is paramount to offer a great end user ad experience and striking the right balance of website content versus advertising. The Publisher can action the Ad Refresh feature for the banner ad zone and then, from a drop down menu, the Publisher can select 1 of 4 timing options:

  • Refresh the ad zone every 30 seconds
  • Refresh the ad zone every 60 seconds
  • Refresh the ad zone every 90 seconds
  • Refresh the ad zone every 120 seconds

Let’s look at the webpage’s Footer Banner ad zone. If the Publisher has actioned Ad Refresh on the Footer Banner ad zone and selected the timing to refresh the ads displayed. This ad zone will not refresh until the end user navigates to the section of the webpage that displays the Footer Banner, then, as with the Header Banner, the Footer ad zone will begin refreshing and showing different ads to the end user who is browsing the content where the Footer ad zone is located. 

In this innovation in ad viewability, there is a maximum limit of 10 ad rotations to serve several ads per user per user session. This rotation limit has been set to be fully compliant with the Independent Advertising Bureau (IAB) industry standards, helping once again Publishers to strike the right balance of website content versus advertising. The IAB’s rule for ad refreshing is that Publishers should choose to refresh ads at a reasonable rate, to avoid serving low-quality impressions. So by setting the 10 refreshes limit, this provides end users with a great user ad experience while keeping the Publisher compliant with industry standards.

Ad Refresh data

In this section we will look at network data generated by Ad Refresh from EXADS’ ad serving clients, including the percentage of publishers using Ad Refresh, the number of ad zones using Ad Refresh, and the number of impressions served using Ad Refresh.

Network data generated for Ad Refresh

Now we will examine network data generated by Ad Refresh. We will look at figures from December 2023 to March 2024 (Q1). 

Percentage of Publishers using Ad Refresh across EXADS clients

A great end user ad experience Innovation in ad viewability The right balance of website content versus advertising Serve several ads per user per user session Percentage of publishers using ad refresh Number of ad zones using Ad Refresh Number of impressions served using Ad Refresh Why A/B testing is key Why is ad viewability an important metric to track?

This shows a steady increase in the percentage of Publishers using Ad Refresh and testing out the feature. Continuing on we will look at the number of ad zones using Ad Refresh.

Ad Refresh growth potential

Number of ad zones using Ad Refresh

A great end user ad experience Innovation in ad viewability The right balance of website content versus advertising Serve several ads per user per user session Percentage of publishers using ad refresh Number of ad zones using Ad Refresh Number of impressions served using Ad Refresh Why A/B testing is key Why is ad viewability an important metric to track?

This graph shows the number of ad zones using Ad Refresh growth from December 2023 to the end of March 2024 of the number of Ad Refresh ad zones used by Publishers of EXADS ad serving clients. 

We can use Linear Regression to calculate the trend of past monthly data and applying that trend to future months to estimate forthcoming data. Therefore we can estimate that by December 2024 10,789 Publisher ad zones will be using Ad Refresh, an annual growth of 46.76% comparing December 2023 to December 2024. Continuing on we will have a look at the number of impressions served using Ad Refresh.

Innovation in ad viewability: Number of impressions served using Ad Refresh

A great end user ad experience Innovation in ad viewability The right balance of website content versus advertising Serve several ads per user per user session Percentage of publishers using ad refresh Number of ad zones using Ad Refresh Number of impressions served using Ad Refresh Why A/B testing is key Why is ad viewability an important metric to track?

This shows growth from December 2023 to the end of March 2024 of the number of ad impressions served within Ad Refresh ad zones by Publishers of EXADS ad serving clients. Once again, we can estimate the growth using Linear Regression by December 2024 24,545,390,000 impressions will be served via Ad Refresh ad zones, an annual increase of 422.92%.

If we compare December 2023 to December 2024 we expect to see an annual growth of 422.92% for the number of ad impressions served within Ad Refresh ad zones, meaning that more and more Publishers are testing out this feature in order to strike the right balance of website content versus advertising.

Ad Refresh Case Studies

Let’s look at two case studies from Publisher websites that implemented the feature, and see the effects on impressions, revenues, end user clicks and eCPM values of serving several ads per user per user session. eCPM, short for “effective cost per mille,” is how much an advertiser pays for an ad space per unit of 1,000 ad impressions (mille is Latin for thousand). eCPM is one of the most important KPIs in digital advertising, as it shows how lucrative certain ad zones are. High demand ad zones have higher eCPM prices because Advertisers push the bid price up.

Publisher Case Study Mobile website

This Publisher enabled the Ad Refresh feature on the Mobile Header Banner 300x100 with a setting of refresh every 30 seconds, which allowed him to strike the right balance of website content versus advertising. Ad Refresh was tested for 30 days comparing data with the previous 30 days after enabling the feature, the Ad Refresh Mobile Header ad zone showed the following evolution:

  • Global Impressions increase 116.46%
  • Global Revenue increase of 43.59%
  • Global Ad zone clicks from end users 23.15%
  • Although eCPMs dropped slightly to -25.93%, this is normal for some websites, as more impressions are being served in one ad zone, but despite the eCPM decrease, overall revenues increased due to more impression volumes being served.

Publisher Case Study Desktop website

This Publisher has a video content website that allows end users to click on a video thumbnail and then be taken to a webpage to view the video content. Ad Refresh was enabled on a 300x250 Banner ad zone which was placed to the right of the video player. A setting of refresh every 60 seconds was used. Ad Refresh was tested for 30 days comparing data with the previous 30 days after enabling the feature, the Ad Refresh Desktop Banner ad zone showed the following evolution:

  • Global Impressions increase 211.66%
  • Global Revenue increase of 281.67%
  • Global Ad zone clicks from end users 65.79%
  • Global eCPMs increased by 20% 

Because the feature allows different refresh timings, this gives Publishers the opportunity to experiment with the optimal time setting to find the best balance between revenues, clicks and the best end user ad experience on each Ad Refresh ad zone in order to find the right balance of website content versus advertising. If we notice in the above Case Studies, the first Publisher set 30 seconds for his Mobile Header, this makes sense to set the shorter time period because end users tend to scroll through content faster on Mobile devices. The second Publisher used Ad Refresh on Desktop, with a setting of 60 seconds, because end users tend to spend a longer time browsing on a large screen Desktop website. Plus as the website ad zone was next to a video player, the end user is spending more time watching a full video, than reading text within a website's content article.

Why A/B testing is key

Why A/B testing is key? ‍Publishers should be constantly testing their ads and examining data to determine how they can increase revenues on their site and provide a great end user ad experience. When testing ad units with Ad Refresh, Publishers should experiment with different refresh times on a small section of their website. They can then benchmark these results against a control setup to determine whether there is actually any advantage in adopting Ad Refresh ads site-wide. This is why A/B testing is key.

It’s important not to refresh too aggressively. As the number of refreshes on a site increases, so will the number of ad impressions. However, eCPMs will also decline (as mentioned above). In the middle is a ‘sweet spot’ where the Publisher can gather more impressions and still achieve high eCPMs. Every site has a different ‘sweet spot’ so it’s best to run A/B tests with different Ad Refresh timing to determine the ideal Ad Refresh set up and which ad zones should have Ad Refresh implemented.

Ad Refresh Benefits: Innovation in ad viewability

Publisher Benefits: A great end user ad experience

#1 Increased ad inventory from Banner ad zones: Because you will serve several ads per user per user session, Ad Refresh allows Publishers to increase the number of impressions shown within Banner ad zones. To get the same effect, the website's content would have to feature 10 different Banner ad zones spread around the webpage area, which is annoying to end users.

#2 Increased monetization of end user time on the page: Each ad impression served within the Ad Refresh ad zone has been won by an Advertiser’s bid. The more ad impressions shown to the end user during the time that the end user is browsing content around the Ad Refresh ad zone, means up to 10 times more revenues can be earned for the Publisher from each end users time spent on their web pages.

#3 A great end user ad experience: Due to EXADS’ platform's large range of targeting options, Ad Refresh allows Publishers to display fresh ad content on the webpage that matches the audience’s interests. This provides a more engaging ad experience for end users, providing the right balance of website content versus advertising.

#4 No end user ad fatigue: When end users are shown the same ad in a Display Banner ad zone it can lead to Banner blindness from the end user. So Ad Refresh ensures that the end user is not exposed to the same static ad in the Banner ad zone, providing a great end user ad experience. Ad Refresh will display several different ads within the ad zone, avoiding end user ad fatigue. 

#5 An easy to implement in innovation and ad viewability: The feature is available to Publishers within their account’s admin panel on EXADS’ platform. Each Banner ad zone has a drop down menu, with the option (default) of no Ad Refresh, or the 4 different timings of Ad Refresh. Selecting a timing implements the feature in the ad zone immediately, so no additional development is needed from the Publishers side to use it.   

#6 Page load times are not affected: Google Chrome penalizes websites with slower loading times, Ad Refresh does not affect page load times. The initial page load will be the same, independent of whether Ad Refresh is enabled or not. The browser will only make a new set of requests to the ad server once the refresh is triggered. This will use some additional bandwidth for the end user. So, while the Ad Refresh does consume additional data, it doesn’t slow down the initial page load.

Advertiser Benefits: Innovation in ad viewability

#1 More ad inventory available: Because Publishers will now serve several ads per user per user session, Advertisers have more opportunities to bid for a specific ad zone, which means that their offers become more likely to be seen by their target audiences.

#2 More opportunities to appear in high demand ad zones and websites: Some websites have large amounts of high quality traffic, which means those ad zones are in very high demand. With many Advertisers competing for the one Banner ad zone, Advertisers with high budgets can outbid all other Advertisers for the ad zone. With Ad Refresh, this opens up the ad zone for more Advertiser bids, giving small budget advertisers the opportunity to win one of the Ad Refresh impressions to reach their target market. 

#3 Ads will be shown to fresh audiences: Because an end user won’t be shown the same campaign twice, Advertisers can be sure that their offers are being shown to fresh audiences, bringing more opportunities for campaign reach, with the possibility of the ad campaign getting interest from more end users and increased clicks on their offer.

Conclusion: Why is ad viewability an important metric to track?

Why is ad viewability an important metric to track? Why is the reason to continue innovating in ad viewability? Because Advertisers want to buy viewable impressions, so Publishers that offer highly viewable display inventory will have inventory that will be in higher demand. So, in short, by helping Publishers improve their site’s ad viewability rates, Ad Refresh allows them offer more quality impressions that are likely to generate clicks, which will generate more demand, and will positively affect their revenues! 

Some Publishers find they have an excellent end user time-on-site, hence a great end user ad experience, but a low number of ad impressions. For example, an end user might spend a few minutes reading an article, watching a video, or playing a game but only generate one impression per ad unit for that visit. This leads to lower revenue because publishers can only serve ads once – when the page first loads.

Ad Refresh addresses this problem, by calling the ad server for a new ad creative without reloading the entire page, being able to serve several ads per user per user session. There are no wasted impressions because the ad zone only refreshes if the end user is viewing the Ads Refresh ad zone on their device’s screen, once the end user moves away from the ad zone, it stops refreshing. This ensures that Advertisers that won the bid to be displayed in the ad zone are guaranteed that their ad is displayed. EXADS’ Ad Refresh will not serve impressions within an Ad Refresh ad zone that a viewer can’t see.

As an Ad Platform Owner using EXADS ad serving technology, by offering Ad Refresh as a feature to your Publishers you can increase network revenue opportunities. The Ad Refresh feature allows your Publisher network to offer your Advertisers up to 10 times more inventory per display ad zone, giving you and your Publishers the possibility to boost earnings. Additionally, Ad Refresh is a valuable add-on for ad platforms that use EXADS, differentiating them from their competitors, and attracting more Publishers and Advertisers to their network. 

EXADS is already seeing Publisher adoption growing for the Ad Refresh feature, bringing a large range of benefits to our ad serving clients, Ad Refresh is a refreshing feature from EXADS, based in innovation in ad viewability.

 

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Ana Kealy

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