LONDON: The viewability of digital display ads in the UK continues to fluctuate around the 50% mark and the situation isn't getting any better, new research shows, although there are simple steps marketers can take on optimisation to enhance this figure.

The latest quarterly benchmark report from ad verification company Meetrics revealed that only 49% of banner ads served during the final quarter of 2016 met the IAB and Media Ratings Council's recommendation that 50% of the ad was in view for at least 1 second.

This was the same figure as Q3, which itself was a marginal improvement on the 47% in Q2, but a noticeable drop from the 54% viewability level in Q1 2016. The highest figure reported in the past 33 months, 56%, came in the second quarter of 2014.

UK advertisers spent more than £600m on online ads last year that didn't meet minimum viewability thresholds, the report noted

"Despite the ongoing attention and initiatives focused on addressing viewability, things just aren't really improving," said Anant Joshi, Meetrics' Director of International Business.

"Yes, you can argue viewability has stabilised over the last couple of quarters and is marginally up on 6 months ago," he added, "but the reality is viewability levels are lower than a year ago and over half of ads served still aren't viewable."

The UK remains significantly behind other European countries in terms of viewability levels: Austria is at 68%, Germany at 58% and France at 57%.

"There's a lot of energy and focus going into measuring viewability but nowhere near enough on building on that insight and actually optimising for viewability, particularly on programmatic campaigns," said Joshi.

"For example, it's very easy to extract a list of under-performing domains – be it viewability or view time – and exclude or de-list them from any automated buying platform.

"This means buying from the higher performing domains can be increased. A greater focus on simple steps such as these would see viewability rise significantly in 2017."

Data sourced from Meetrics; additional content by Warc staff