Making an impact?

The other day I was in a room with someone and we were discussing the idea of transferring a measurement currency for one medium into the digital world. The feeling from some – neither of us – was that a standard metric from the TV world needed to be translated onto online.

Here’s the thing. On TV the ad delivery premise is simple. Either the programming has 100% of the screen, or one single ad has 100% of the screen.

Easy to understand. Probably why TV is enjoying a strong bounce in 2010 despite many incorrectly claiming it’s a redundant medium.

But I digress. The fact that either ad or programming has 100% of the screen is the point. It’s the same with radio. It’s the same with most print mediums. It’s the same with most media aside classifieds.

With digital – it isn’t generally the case. In 95% of cases there are multiple ads competing for the users attention. On some publishers over 10. On others, over 20.

So, instead of one ad, there’s multiple.

But then it becomes even more complicated.

A user might have 5 browsers open at one time. This means they’re being served ads across all 5 browsers. This means at any one time there could be 50 or even 100 ads running at any one time.

Personally, I think this is a challenge many of us haven’t really begun to try and solve. We talk about impressions, unique browsers, clicks – metrics which I think most are starting to believe have no real grounding in the areas that really matter. They are digital buzzwords that are at odds with the rest of marketing terminology.

I guess there’s a few issues here.

–       there’s generally too many ads per page. Having 15/20/25 ads on a page a user spends 60 or 90 seconds on is ridiculous. No one would dispute this.
–       The way users are interacting with the web is constantly changing – more things are being done concurrently … but are the ad options we offer up to clients reflecting and adapting to this?

My gut tells me impact and clutter are important issues that will become even more important in the next 12 months. Why? Because of what I am saying above … advertisers are going to start to want the same impact and clean space they get on TV.

Right now, I’m not sure they’re considered that important. The market is driven by CPM so the ultimate desire is to drive CPM down. If CPM yields drop, the obvious reaction is to add more pages to maintain overall yield. The more ads, the lower the CPMs go … the lower the CPMs go the more ads you need to add to a page?

Question for the marketing people out there? Would you be prepared to pay more for placement on a page where you were the only advertiser? Would you be prepared to pay more for category exclusivity on a page? Do you feel clutter is devaluing your investments in digital?

Or, alternatively, would an FMCG brand manager pay a premium to be on a supermarket shelf space that was exclusive to her/his brand? Or closer to the register? Or a price for an aisle end display? I think they would.

Being one of 10 advertisers on a page fighting with the content for a users attention can’t be appealing to a marketer can it?


3 responses to “Making an impact?

  1. Spot on Ben!

    A typical ad-break on TV is around 3 minutes. Just under 95% of those ads will be 15″s or 30″s, with more 30″s than 15″s, so we’re looking at around 9-10 ads in a break. The largest TV ad-break I have ever seen was 14 ads (late-night while there was a delay changing over to a live sporting event).

    Each of those ads “owned the screen” for their 15 or 30 seconds. Just looking at a large local publishers home page, there are six clearly paid-for ads, others labelled as promotions, and of course other content that is basically cross-site promotions (like a station promo or ident). Not one of these “owns the screen”, most are below the fold, and right now I would struggle to recall more than one of them.

    But here’s the rub. When there are occasions where the ad does “own the screen” – screen take-overs that I often see on my home page – they drive me absolutely bananas, and I rush to find the Close button which is generally obscurely placed and toned so that it looks like the background on which it sits – of course, that could just be me. What I would REALLY like to see is some ethnographic research on (i) how often people scroll below the fold to see these myriad of ads (ii) how people react to a screen take-over.

    As you point out Ben, these tactics play a very strong part in driving DOWN the online CPM. TV is able to maintain its CPM levels because the advertiser is sold the entire screen (and audio) for that entire period of time. Sure, a number of people leave the room during the ad-breaks (around 5%-8% on the data I have seen), and not all pay full attention (I’d blame that on the ad and not TV per se). Further, evidence on time-shifters show that they skip the ads in droves which is a hot issue in TV buying at the moment.

  2. I agree with the multiple ads on the site, they are definitely competing for attention. Not only from the other ads but also from the content. I don’t agree with the multiple browser theory as much though… only for the fact that this happens with other media. It’s not apples for apples but aren’t a lot of people browsing online whilst watching TV? Same with other forms of media, sometimes these aren’t getting 100% of your attention and that’s why when you add up the media consumption % of a user it’s over 100%.

    Having said that, clutter is a huge issue with online and I think as an industry we need to start looking at longer term strategies that will help us gain more revenue % from other media but also see an increase in effectiveness and performance for advertisers – these go hand in hand obviously. Auto refresh issues are a great example of ‘more impressions = more dollars’ thinking rather than ‘better results = more dollars’.

    John mentions page take overs but I don’t think that’s what you mean by ‘owning the screen’ – I’m guessing you’re talking about a ‘roadblock’ where all the ad units are used by one advertiser. I think if we can show that the increase in performance and brand awareness will equal the increase in the price then it should be an easy sell to a marketer. We’re always talking about the branding effect of digital but when your share of voice on a page is 10% I’m guessing you’re not going to see much brand uplift!

  3. Thanks for comments Dave.

    You ask the question “aren’t a lot of people browsing online whilst watching TV?” Well the answer is “Yes” and “No”. If you look at the actual research question it says something like “do you ever browse the internet while watching TV”. What we would really need to know is “do you always/very often/sometimes/rarely/never browse the internet while watching TV. The US data I saw was basically a “lifetime reach” figure – it certainly wasn’t posited to reflect “the typical day”. It is analagous to when people say “but people go to the bathroom during the ad-breaks on the TV”. That is true – 100% of people would have been to the bathroom during an a. However, but they don’t go to the bathroom in 100% of the ads! If the average person goes to the toilet 6 times a day, and watches TV 3 hrs a day, on a probabilistic basis that would be 1 wee-break a day – big deal!

    Regarding the last point, I actually did mean a screen take-over – where the ad content rolls down my screen and takes up the entire space. In essence the ad takes over what I was trying to read/watch – it drives me crazy! That is the closest I have seen to the “devoted screen” experience I have seen online – and in my book it is a big fail!

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