A recently released survey has come to the sobering conclusion that up to half of online advertising budgets are being wasted on ads that consumers never see. Brand safety and advertising viewability analysis company AdSafe Media released the results of their Engagement Quality and Contextual Relevance research as part of their Semiannual Review.

The study was lead by computer scientist Panos Ipeirotis who helped to develop a method to measure how long an ad was actually visible to a user. It was found that 38% of ads on a webpage are never seen at all, 50% are seen for half of a second or less, which was considered to be the equivalent of not being seen at all, and 56% were seen for less than five seconds. This was shown true in many cases even if the ads were located “above the fold”. Page layout and main content were major factors affecting ad visibility.

Professor Ipeirotis predicted that as a result of the study there would soon be a change in how ads are priced, shifting from a pricing model based on volume of ads served to one based on visibility statistics. After all, he points out, advertisers shouldn’t be paying for ads that people never see or don’t see for long enough to be noticed.

For affiliates and other online advertisers there’s really not much being offered in the way of advice as to how to increase ad visibility other than to be aware of how important it is and to continue to use their ad dollars as effectively as possible. But it’s certain that studies like this will bring about change sooner rather than later.