There's something in the air and if you want to know what it is, take a look at Biz Stone and Evan Williams. The Twitter co-founders' Medium site has signed up its first content sponsor, BMW, and the
big news is that the car brand is not paying by impressions or click. Instead, the metric is time.
It's been a prediction of mine for quite some time that while cost per click (CPC) will
probably have a future in direct-response campaigns, particularly around ecommerce, cost per thousand impressions (CPM) as a metric will likely be replaced a time or audience share metric, or possibly
a combination of the two.
Ad men and women cannot complain. As the industry has been mechanised, it has made CPM virtually meaningless. Why count how many times an advert has been served
when more than half are unviewable -- although there is a new IAB standard here -- and an estimated half of those which are clicked on are selected not by a keen consumer but rather an ad "bot." The
figures aren't exact and they vary from one source to another but the phrase that you waste half your money in advertising has never been truer than online display.
If you can't rely on
clicks alone nor impressions, it makes sense that advertisers will seek to look for additional metrics.
This search comes at exactly the same time as video is the hot topic. It's massive
because people genuinely like to be entertained in sound and vision, but there is no agreed viewability metric for the medium yet in place. It's being worked on but it's far harder to say when a video
is viewable or has been viewed than it is to say at least half a display MPU appeared above the fold for longer than a second.
Video, however, has a metric that broadcasters have come to
know and trust. It's not all that precise, but then the problem with mechanised advertising is it's too precise and so open to massive manipulation by "bots."
share of a defined audience, and there is a common belief that this will carry on into the online world and could progress from video into other forms of advertising.
would be the perfect medium for this, particularly around branding rather than direct response -- let's face it, if you want to sell widgets and widgets alone, you'll probably just grin and bear the
faults inherent in CPC because at least they measure clicks rather than sentiment or favourability.
If you're branding, however, time spent by a certain share of a certain audience is
probably as good a metric as any. At least it goes beyond showing that the material was available to be viewed and doesn't get too bogged down by whether a human or a "bot" instantly clicked on a link
to earn a commission.
Mark these words. CPC will probably be kept alive by direct-response ecommerce operators, but as the Web moves to embrace branding as well as direct response, and as
video becomes a key component in that, we will see more moves like BMW's sponsorship of design-led articles, where time and share of audience are the metric.
They are terms that will become
a common part of adland's vocabulary, just as they have been in broadcast for quite some time.