Think about the Super Bowl this past weekend. Super Bowl XLVIII was a blowout in more ways than one: The big game pulled in approximately 111.5 million viewers (its highest ratings ever), generated over 24 million #SB48-related tweets, and interactions (post, comments, and likes) from 50 million Facebook users. And it’s likely that you don’t just remember the expression on Peyton Manning’s face when the game turned sour for the Denver Broncos; you probably also remember the Budweiser ad with that adorable dog.
The Super Bowl is an advertiser’s dream for a reason. In our age of ultra-fragmented media, it’s one of the only television events left where high-volume impressions are guaranteed on behalf of millions of Americans, and advertisers are paying a huge premium for this. A 30-second ad during the game cost a whopping $4 million. Prices will keep going up, even as we live in an era of DVR, ad skipping, and more channels than anyone actually wants. That’s because people are paying attention to Super Bowl ads, and they’re paying attention because they know they’re going to be good. They know that brands invest an enormous amount of creative resources into producing something that’s memorable, not half-hearted or annoying.
And this problem is at the core of why TV dollars aren’t going online.
The idea of an “impression” in digital is so wildly different from what it is in TV -- especially high-quality TV like the Super Bowl -- that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Sure, the CPM for a high-quality, professionally produced online video ad can be appealingly low for an advertiser. But the fact of the matter is, the definition of an “impression” online is ridiculously loose. The most common definition of a TV ad “impression” is 100% of the screen for 30 seconds --100% viewable, and with 100% “share of voice” for advertisers to deliver their creative. Digital impressions are mostly defined as 50% of an advertisement viewable for one second, and there’s not even clear consensus on that.
Things just don’t match up. And that’s why you don’t yet see excitement about digital ads the way you do for Super Bowl ads, or even plain old TV commercials. The standards aren’t the same for measurement or creative quality. When it comes to online ads, too many people still think of those annoying punch-the-monkey ads from a decade ago.
The industry has got to stop complaining and start working to change this. Our warped idea of what constitutes an online “impression” is the underlying reason why online ads are treated so differently from TV ads, and not just by the people who view them, but by the very people who create them. We’ve all seen those graphs that show consumer time spent online versus watching TV and how spending online versus TV doesn’t match up.
But what the Super Bowl shows us is that digital still doesn’t offer advertisers what TV has offered advertisers for decades. Where there are people paying attention, prices go up, and rightfully so.
Why not make the definition of a digital impression more like a TV impression: 100% viewable, 100% share-of-voice, for a
full 30 seconds? This would cause digital advertisers to totally rethink what they’re putting on the screen, realizing that engagement involves investing in a deep, creative thought process.
If this became the new standard, TV might have some competition. Because right now, the matchup is about as painful to watch as seeing the Seahawks shut out the Broncos last Sunday.