A problem too big to ignore?

I bang on about this a bit, but I still think there’s a big job for everyone to do around digital display media and impact and cut through.

Right now, my concern is the IAB standard ads are not the right ad format for the medium – not by a mile.

There’s two core issues.

1/ Standardised ads are being ignored by many consumers and creative agencies are struggling to build great executions due to file size and other restrictions
2/ The way people use the web is incredibly fast and transactional and a 15 second transitional Flash ad will always struggle when page dwell time is around 30 seconds to a minute.

Anyway – when I bring it up generally I get a polite ‘that’s good to know’ and that’s about it. For me the issue is incredibly relevant as it makes it tough to recommend some digital options if at best you’ll get your clients brand a brief glance.

Now, before anyone says ‘oh but people ignore TV and newspaper and magazine ads’ just stop now. It’s a tired argument and it’s used by people that want to hide behind the perceived inadequacies of other media instead of fixing what needs to be fixed.

Anyway I saw this article in AdWeek which was called ‘Ads Most Ignored vs. Ads Most Heeded’


From the article: “An AdweekMedia/Harris Poll this month asked adults to cite the form of advertising they “tend to ignore or disregard the most.” Atop the list, picked by 46 percent, were “Internet banner ads.” And the runner-up was “Internet search-engine ads,” picked by 17 percent. TV advertising was the only other genre in double digits (13 percent).”

There’s been some progress made in 2009 with more page dominant ad units and takeovers/skins etc … but is it enough?

The article also dispells a few commonly shouted beliefs from the digital cheerleaders around medium effectiveness – anyway take a look.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there’s no dispute of the eyeballs online in a digital sense … but there is concern around the impact of ads in the medium and this is probably (as well as better measurement in terms of results and audience) the main issue facing all involved.

From a work perspective the main things I am looking at now when evaluating options are

1/ Effective CPM. It’s easy to work a CPM back to an effective CPM based on your target. Try it and look to benchmark with other media and I bet it’ll surprise you
2/ Engagement. Page duration is a key metric as it has a direct influence on how much attention someone can pay to your brands message. Is your agency/digital advisor etc giving you insight around this?
3/ Rationale and qual insights. A publisher competing for your money should be expected to give you a solid, concise overview on the audience, their motivations, their habits and content preferences. Not just a UB figure. If they can’t they are just an order taker and with a market this competitive you can leave the order takers and focus on those who actually know their product.


7 responses to “A problem too big to ignore?

  1. Interesting post Ben.

    “There’s been some progress made in 2009 with more page dominant ad units and takeovers/skins etc … but is it enough?”

    I think this is the issue. If the only way advertisers can achieve cut through is for publishers to take over an entire page and ram ads down consumers throats by interupting their experience then the entire industry needs to rethink our value proposition.

  2. Hey Ben. Agree this is a major challenge. Working back to an effective CPM is useful. here are a couple of issues…

    1. Are you talking about CPM based on ads served or UBs reached? An effective “reach” CPM is useful for comparison purposes with other media, but not many publishers will sell you based on reach (unless its via a frequency cap). And then there is the “UBs dont equal people” problem which means its difficult to conpare digital with TV, for instance.

    2. What type of ad are you delivering? An eCPM without some sort of “Quality Score” does not mean very much. These days you can serve a rich media expandable game, expandable video, standard flash ad, gif ad, into the same 300×250 ad unit for the same CPM. Without knowing the quality of the ads served its difficult to use eCPM as a comparative metric between campaigns.

    This challlenge of cost:reach:impact measurement seems to be common to most channels. Some are just further along the path to working it out. At least we can measure engagement more accurately. If only it was easier to generate.

  3. I think this discussion is two fold. Changing media placements and defining new ad spots is one thing, but you really need the creative to cut through. I’ve seen too many naff OTP’s in the last few weeks and only a handful of exceptional ones which made me take notice…

  4. talkingdigital

    hi mate – agree with you. the two other variables are really placement and also demand. only problem with those 2 is the person is generally making a subjective opinion, but this should be okay if backed with experience. the same issues exist with other media when working out effective CPM across more dominant or solus ad units too so it’s not unique to us.

  5. talkingdigital

    absolutely A … a good placement with a sh*tty ad is ultimately just a sh*tty experience for the user.

  6. Ben.
    I think there are 2 issues here. The first is the update of the current online ad standards which, frankly have not been reviewed in the past few years. The IAB Standards & Guidelines Council has initiated 2 projects to review and update the Universal Ad package – which currently only specifices 4 ad sizes, banner,leaderboard, mrec and skyscraper – to include new ad sizes and also rich media.

    The second project is to review the US and UK IAB online Video ad standrads and best practice docs and create and publish a local AU set.

    The process for both projects will see an initial draft by the Council members and other industry specialists, this draft will be sent to industry – IAB members, the MFA, AFA, AANA as well as individual agencies and clients for review and comment, then the Council will review and incorporate the feedback and publish a final set of standards and guidelines.

    The timeline for these 2 projects starts now and we aim to publish by the end of Q3 ie 30 Sept 2009. The MFA Digital Sub-Committee and the AFA Digital Executive are very involved in this process so it’s an industry-wide review.

    The scope will include not only a review of the current IAB ad standards but also look at file sizes, best practices, and all the ad sizes on publishers sites not currently seen as “standard”.

    The aim of course is to make it easier for people like you to recommend digital, for media agencies to plan and buy digital and for creative agencies to make great creative.

    The second issue is the effectiveness of display advertising and as you wrote in your post about Google’s contribution to the IAB, this is a focus of the IAB here in Australia as it is in many other leading interactive advertising industries in other countries eg the UK, US and most if not all the EU countries.

    The reason is we have to demonstrate the effectiveness of display advertising online to the extent it is not questioned or doubted, and more importantly in my view to the extent we put quant and qual resources into the hands of marketers, planners, strategists, buyers and publishers that show what types of display work best in which scenarios, for which type of creative, for which indsutry segments, how it impacts on so-called performance advertising, how it impacts on search activity, does size matter, does engagement matter, does video make a difference and if yes, what type of video formats have what impact. The list goes on.

    To this second issue, the IAB Research Council is right now drafting briefs for research projects, again in collaboration with the MFA and AFA.

    I welcome input into all of these projects from all industry players, whether IAB members or not.

    These issues are being addressed – as you say it is a “problem too big to ignore” and I think it’s been ignored for too long. Progress is slow, but within months we will see the results of the biggest review and overhaul of ad standards in this country in years.

  7. Online, like any other medium, is trained towards pursuits both generalist and specific. Many online sites are content rich, audience focused, and community building. These are sites where niche audiences congregate, providing demographic profiling to advertisers who can then align specific branding/messaging intentions towards content rich, highly relevant online publishing identities.

    Is the question advertisers should be asking really ‘which medium does the general population consider to be the most informative/useful/effective’?? Or is it perhaps that advertisers need to keenly identify their target market, and marry this knowledge to an understanding of where their customers – both current and potential – go to seek information around their areas of interest/passion.

    Why pursue a cheap click when you can get an invested, qualified click? And why use television as advertiser ‘X’ when you know, through research that you should be pursuing as part of your marketing brain, that your audience are in ‘X’ communities online?

    Anyone can shut their eyes to advertising – they can mute television ads, change radio channels between songs, or let their eyes gloss over an online banner. But if you are on the right site, in front of the right people, who are purposefully pursuing, consuming, and sorting through information relevant to your advertising message – then you’re in front of an invested eye, not an passive bystander.

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