Are below the fold ads more engaging?

Conventional wisdom would say that an ad that is above the fold would be more effective than one that a user won’t see unless they actively scroll down the page. New research from ad tech company Sovrn seems to suggest that the opposite may actually be true.

The company looked at over three billion engagements across 130 million page views on 400 websites to see whether ads above or below the fold into which bring the best results.

The research team focused on the difference between engagement time, which is the total time that a page is open and the user is deemed active, and dwell time, which is the time between the user loading the page and leaving it by closing the window or clicking another link.

The results seem to show that ads below the fold were more engaging than those above it. When it came to dwell time, users were engaged with ads below the fold for 27% of the viewable dwell time. This is compared to just 3% for ads above the fold.

Ads below the fold are also seen for 2.6 times longer than those above it, potentially meaning higher levels of engagement. Ads above the fold are currently up to five times more expensive than their bottom dwelling cousins, so brands choosing to focus below the fold may be netting themselves a great deal.

Dwelling and engagement

“Currently the industry prioritises viewability, or dwell time as a metric, but our research has highlighted that this is leading advertisers to make potentially costly decisions about their audience,” Andy Evans, CMO at Sovrn comments.

“We’re all guilty of opening browser tabs to look at content that we end up closing without even seeing the page, let alone an ad, and yet current metrics could end up counting these such instances, when they shouldn’t. By looking actively at engagement and various factors such as a click, scroll or tab changes, we can see that the user is engaged and increase the propensity to convert by targeting them in that moment.”

An important element when considering ad placement is also scroll depth, which varies significantly by device. The exit point for users on mobile tends to be halfway through the content (54%), a third of the way down the page on tablet (38%) and a quarter of the way down on desktop (23%).

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