Your Ad Is Now Viewable, And Your Hamburger Is Now Edible

If I may put a request out to all my colleagues in the advertising technology business: Please, please, please don’t make a big deal out of telling people that their “ads are now viewable.” We can do better than this.

Because, seriously, “your ad is now viewable” doesn’t sound any different than a hamburger meat company saying, “Now with real beef!” If you heard that, then you’d be thinking, well, what the heck was I eating before? And when this purveyor of burger meat is telling me that it’s “real,” then how much is actually real? What if it’s only 1% real beef? That’s the kind of analogy we’re dealing with when it comes to viewability.

So here’s what I propose: Don’t make a big deal about your ads being viewable. Make a big deal about your ads being viewed. Just like you’d make a big deal about that hamburger you ate being high-quality, well-prepared, and of course, delicious.

It’s great that the industry is talking about viewability, because it certainly was -- and continues to be -- a huge problem that we had such a poor definition of “impressions” and were packaging so many useless metrics until they looked like something good.

Except that defining things as “viewable” creates a binary that is equally deceiving. And this is the next fallacy that we risk as an industry. Saying that an ad is “viewable” shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all in terms of our decision-making. In reality, “viewable” is the proxy, and it should open up a whole host of questions just like being told that the hamburger you’re about to eat is made with “real beef.” How much real beef? How do you define “real?” And, well, does it taste good?

We’ve defined a proxy, but not a standard. And talking about our ads being actually viewed is that next dialogue we need to have now that we’ve made the important step of acknowledging that we needed to talk about viewability. Because viewable can lead to viewed, but it doesn’t necessarily do so. (Especially, since, as many of us know, fraudulent views generated by bots are still classified as “viewable.”)

If we’re focusing on viewed rather than viewable, there are a couple of things that we’ll be forced to start addressing that we aren’t sufficiently addressing yet -- like the epidemic of ad blockers and the fact that so many online ads just suck, frankly. Getting into this frame of thinking will only do good things for us.

Let’s talk about food again. Many of us have gotten really inquisitive about the content of our food in recent years -- was that grass-fed? Is it organic? What’s exactly in this? That’s one of the reasons why, in recent years, we’ve started to see food-related companies both large and small, doubling down on a commitment to tell us exactly what we’re eating, what’s in it, and where it came from. What we eat is a kind of storytelling -- just like advertising. Consumers are demanding accountability in food, and I’d love to see that kind of scrutiny expand into the business world. It’s about time we saw accountability in ads as well.

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6 comments about "Your Ad Is Now Viewable, And Your Hamburger Is Now Edible".
  1. Jim Rowan from Liqwid , June 12, 2014 at 12:53 p.m.
    Finally, the real issue for digital advertising is being raised. Viewability should have been a given all along and the industry looks foolish for having taken so long to address it. The technology has been there for several years now. Viewed is not the top issue, either. The issue is effectiveness. To be effective, the ad must be viewed, relevant and engaging. Engaging can include many definitions. Our industry has dodged the established science in the print, tv and radio world for far too long. The bigger the ad, the more relevant and engaging and the longer that it can be viewed are paramount requirements for effectiveness. To establish a viewability metric of 50% of the content is non-sense. Which half of content should the advertiser be happy to pay for? The part with the logo and no message or the message and no logo? Thankfully options are now on the market. We need to move well beyond a digital ad being nothing more than a classified ad with a photo.
  2. George Parker from Parker Consultants , June 12, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.
    Joe... Dead right. I justed posted about it on AdScam and made you a hero... 'Cos I am a f*ck*ng Prince. Cheers/George
  3. Andy Kowl from ePublishing , June 12, 2014 at 1:20 p.m.
    Let's use eyeball-tracking technology and make sure viewers have read every word of the ad. That way publishers can build their enterprise, invest in journalism, design and targeting technology in the hope that advertisers will pay them only for ads they can confirm people have read. That sound better? Unfortunately, I must add that I'm just kidding. Jim's comment is dead-on, as is Joe's about too many lame ads. If advertisers go to the trouble and expense of creating truly engaging ads, more of them will be viewed. Paying true value rather than racing to the bottom on RTB exchanges would help, too.
  4. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein , June 12, 2014 at 1:23 p.m.
    Hard to imagine a lower bar.
  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 12, 2014 at 4:24 p.m.
    We are begging to be controlled.
  6. Joe Marchese from true[X] , June 13, 2014 at 11:55 a.m.
    @George - LOL. Love it. @Andy - That is the goal. let's make story telling important in digital.