Time Spent Needs Defined Value In Viewable Advertising Ecosystem

The digital advertising industry has been slow to adopt suitable measurement for viewability, as old-school metrics like impressions and clicks continue to hold on to their seat at the table. For brands to make the most of their audiences and publishers to make the most of their inventory, we need to adopt metrics that go beyond whether the ad reached its desired target and loaded on the “right” part of the page. We need to develop metrics for actual “time spent” engagement, wherever engagement happens. And to do that, we need to rethink what “viewability” means, why it matters, and how to both deliver and measure it.

It’s only been a year since the IAB called for an industry-wide shift from metrics for impressions served to viewable impressions — meaning that the ad should be counted only if it loads properly, in a space the user can see. If advertisers value click-throughs, those are out of the question if the ads they’re trying to serve aren’t visible.

While outmoded, clicks present an easily quantifiable metric. They can help gauge the path from an ad served to an actual purchase, or from the ad to another point in the consumer’s process of researching a purchase. But ads are ubiquitous in the digital world, and click-throughs are rare. Yet digital ads offer genuine depth and breadth of information for consumers, not to mention that they can be a powerful means of branding. As ingrained as digital media is in consumers’ daily lives, we need to consider digital advertising holistically, not as a strict point A-to-point B path, because branding is still very important vehicle for any company that wants to showcase the quality, credibility and experience it delivers.

We need think more about ads in digital media the way we think about ads in broadcast media. The KPIs in digital advertising are subjective and particular to each campaign, and digital can be a powerful means of communicating branding and other goals traditionally valued by broadcast. As such, we need to think less about clicks, and more about the amount of time the consumer spends with an ad. No matter where an ad loads on a page, is it next to the content your target audience most values? Is the ad out of sight as soon as your target consumer hits the scroll bar, or does it remain in view? And most importantly, how much time does it spend in your target’s eyesight – and are they interacting with it? And what does that time mean for the brand and for the publisher?

Viewability is important, but viewability is not a simple “yes or no” question. Time viewing advertising is a more valuable factor to consider than mere presence. Time spent with the ad and the content adjacent to it should be the metric both brands and publishers consider. Time can afford us “off the charts” potential for engagement and branding, and it can help the publisher understand the value of all their inventory, as it helps the brand understand where and when its audience is most engaged. Let’s strike up a new conversation about metrics and viewability, one that captures the full value of digital brand advertising. 

10 comments about "Time Spent Needs Defined Value In Viewable Advertising Ecosystem ".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, December 18, 2013 at 5:38 p.m.

    A very interesting and honest post, especially "the way we think about ads in broadcast media". There are two fundamental and salient hurdles that online has to get over in order to make its next progression. The first is its virtual obsession with server-side 'census' metrics. The server has NO IDEA who, how long or indeed if there is a real person at the other end of the IP connection. For example the other tabs in my browser are open on MediaPost articles all clocking up time - but only THIS tab should be. And when a new email arrives that I go to check (which just happened) then this tab shouldn't be on the clock. The second is the "print more money" approach to sales goals by loading the screen up with yet more advertising space. When I buy a 30-second TV ad I get 100% of the screen for the whole 30-seconds. It is then up to the creative power of my ad to cut through and hold and engage that viewer. This enables broadcasters to charge the premium that they can command. Less can be more folks.

  2. Jeff Bander from Sticky, December 18, 2013 at 6:05 p.m.

    Making change in any industry takes guts and very few organizations want to move first.

    Some of the challenges digital has is not addresses at all in older traditional media.

    For example, when a TV ad plays there is no guarantee at all that anyone actually sees the ad. We all behave differently. From bathroom and food breaks to mobile focus and more.

    Digital measure audiences in a way no other media can. The best news for digital is we are about to move into the second inning. 93% of all US branding dollars are off line. The shift has started and our belief is the move will continue and be significant.

    Now that digital can know not only if an ad is viewable but actually seen, more and more brands will move branding dollars digitally.

    It is going to be fun for some and scary for others but change is here and we have just begun.

    Enjoy the ride.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, December 18, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.

    Jeff, a few more salient points. Every TV ad is viewable - though may not be viewed. Online users also take bathroom and food breaks (albeit some under-connected souls do take their smartphone to the bathroom). Just because on an online ad is viewable does NOT mean that it is actually seen - sure the IAB's viewability initiative improves the situation but there are still no guarantees. Notice I called it 'online' and not 'digital' - 100% of TV here in Australia is digital (not sure of the US proportion), majority of our cinemas are digital, around 10% of Out-of-Home is digital, a chunk of radio is digital, and around 20-25% of readership is digital. Can we agree to call it either 'online' or 'interactive' which is what's its core strength is?

  4. Jeff Bander from Sticky, December 19, 2013 at 4:39 a.m.

    John, you are 100% correct. A "viewable" ad impression just means it has the potential to be seen or in-screen. When I say SEEN I mean actually seen. Technology exists now to know if an online ad is actually seen and for how long. Not viewability, but seen.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, December 19, 2013 at 6:40 a.m.

    Yes Jeff there is that technology available and I was playing around with it almost 10 years ago. But who actually has it deployed? What proportion of ads would be covered? And most importantly does the 'viewer' know that their gaze is being tracked and have they given consent? I envisaged that this would work in a sample or panel sense but it simply wouldn't give the coverage of all the creative executions that were being advertised.

  6. Jeff Bander from Sticky, December 19, 2013 at 2:22 p.m.

    John, the technology I am referring to is not 10 yrs old. Focus right now is on branding campaigns. Some of the largest Fortune 100 companies are optimizing with the SEEN metric, top agencies and major large brands too. Be happy to speak off line if you are interested in learning more. Have a happy and healthy Holiday.

  7. Laurent Nicolas from Alenty, December 23, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.

    At Alenty we have measured viewability duration for 6 years! We have run hundreds of studies that prove the very high correlation between viewability duration and branding attributes like recall. look at this one for instance (in French) :

  8. John Grono from GAP Research, December 23, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.

    Laurent, je m'excuse, mais mon français est pauvre. I assume you have been measuring viewability duration server-side by deriving the duration as the interval between events in the click-stream. This serves as a very approximate proxy for viewing for the reasons I posited in my first post. I'd much rather know what proportion of 'viewability duration' was viewed by studying a panel of a few thousand people than having a census study of the clickstream. That's is I want to see the 'probable' views of the 'possible' views. Of course the 'possible' views is an advance on the 'files served' approach but is far from being the panacea.

  9. julia smith from 614 group, February 4, 2014 at 7:17 p.m.

    I am a Partner at global consultancy The 614 Group and we have recently completed an independent white paper which reviews the key ad viewability vendors on a consistent benchmark of tests.

    There are so many vendors offering a solution on this issue, but your choice has to be made based on your own business needs and an unbiased view of the choices available.

    Publishers are not feeling the urgency on this issue, but they will - maybe when its too late and they have been dropped off the plan.

    The industry needs to know that agencies are taking this issue seriously and offering viewable impressions will become the accepted trade metric.

    Don't wait until you have lost a campaign because the buyer has found out you are delivering fewer viewable impressions than you are declaring. Act now and offer buyers a higher CPM for guaranteed viewable impressions which warrant a premium.

  10. Laurent Nicolas from Alenty, February 5, 2014 at 3:46 a.m.

    @John Grono Sorry, I missed your comment!
    Alenty does not estimate ad-viewability with a server approach, but with a client-side measurement, which has been accredited by MRC. In 2007, we were the first company in the world that succeeded to measure ad-viewability...
    The study that is presented here has a very strong methodology. Alenty measures the real ad-viewability of campaigns. Then Mediamento gets thousands of people to fill a questionnaire about their recall of brands and products. For each respondant, Alenty tells MediaMento the exact level of exposure to the campaigns: for each impression, what percentage of the area of the ad was viewable, for how long, etc. MediaMento uses a scientific method (Phd in neurosciences) to quantify the level of recall for each respondant. The link with the real ad-exposure gives a reliable model of brand advertising effectiveness. In a nutshell, you need to see the majority of the message (80% of its duration) to maximize the recall.

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