Quality Time With Consumers

Talking to consumers requires consumers giving you their time. The entire value of the typical display "impression" is wrapped up in the hope that at some point, while a consumer is on a particular Web site, that consumer stops what he was doing and spends time reading your marketing message. And if that consumer doesn't interact in some way with a display advertising unit (which an overwhelming majority do not) the amount of time a consumer can spend is extremely limited. At least with the typical television spot, a marketer has 30 seconds to talk to a consumer using sight, sound and motion. The issue of getting quality time with consumers on the Internet is just one more reason why television still dominates the Internet. But it shouldn't be this way.

I would argue that more marketers need to measure media success not as the total number of consumers "reached" because a pixel loads on a page, but rather the total time consumers actually spend with their marketing message. Obviously it's very hard, if not impossible, to accurately attribute any "time spent" with consumers to a display advertisement that a consumer does not interact with, mostly because for a majority of those "impressions," the time you actually got with the consumer is probably close to zero seconds. Buying media is about paying for the opportunity to spend time with a consumer. Why would a marketer pay for anything else? What type of message can you hope to deliver in less than a couple of seconds?



The funny part about the whole situation is that the Internet actually offers marketers the opportunity to spend far more time with consumers than television, because there is no 30-second limitation to engaging them. If the advertising creative is good (interactive, interesting, personalized), using paid media to access consumer attention can lead to consumer sessions that are significantly more than 30 seconds. And the more time marketers can spend with consumers, the more of their message they can communicate and hope that a consumer retains. It's not a complicated equation.

What do you think? How can the Internet deliver marketers more quality time with consumers, and why isn't time spent with consumers the focus of most digital campaigns already? Drop a comment below; I'll also do my best to continue the conversation on Twitter at

3 comments about "Quality Time With Consumers".
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  1. Jon Tesser from ABC/Disney, August 24, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.

    A lot of the problem with this has to do with the Time Spent metric, which is notoriously difficult to measure. For most web analytics tools, time spent is only attributed to a page after the user has gone to another page on the same site; if the user leaves the site (either by clicking on an external link or closing the browser), then their time spent on the page isn't recorded. Until this dilemma is solved, time spent as a key metric has to be taken with a grain of salt.

  2. James Willett from Self-Employed, August 24, 2010 at 4:21 p.m.

    Joe, during my time as manager of ad marketing & sales strategy at Tribune Interactive, I argued this line of thinking many times. Time spent is a much more valuable metric and a much easier one of which to defend the value. In my humble opinion, there are too many digital entities tied to the supposed value of page views, unique visitors and "impressions" to easily move away from these metrics. Sadly, these forms of measurement include so many inherent flaws that it's almost silly that marketers knowingly accept them as the default metric. Then again, these flawed metrics to calculate time spent. So, I guess it's a catch 22.

  3. Wendy Riley-Biddle, August 24, 2010 at 5:48 p.m.

    Good point Joe. Getting advertisers to start thinking in terms of the quality of the experience from the consumers standpoint should see them improve the quantity of 'time spent.'

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