Digital Marketers Get Mugged For a Billion Pounds - Why Aren't They More Angry?

Why aren't digital marketers more angry? That's a big question the London scene must be asking itself today. Or is it just me? Just a few days after Google revealed that just over half -- i.e., the majority -- of digital advertisements are not viewable, The Drum has put together a round-robin opinion-gathering article and surely to everyone's surprise, the senior marketers involved are all pretty calm about the finding that half their media isn't even being seen.

The views ranged from not being worried to kind of always suspecting that was the case to the one that surprised me the most --  it's down to us to plan better campaigns. The most incisive answer came, as you might expect, from It has built it own in-house programmatic trading desk for several reasons, including getting a better idea of whether it was buying media that actually had the possibility to be seen. Their take on the figures was that it wasn't a great surprise, might prompt more brands to go direct to market, and at the very least, might kickstart more conversations to get viewability measurement standardised and viewability rates increased.

The irony, of course, is that we already have a metric for viewability, provided by the IAB -- which requires only half of an ad's pixels to be seen for a second for it to be considered viewable. So the metric is already there, and let's face it, it's not the most onerous requirement, is it?

I know I blogged about this just a few days ago, and I wasn't going to touch it again for a while, but I can't be the only person in UK digital marketing thinking that brands should be seething with anger about this. Or am I?

Taking last year's near GBP2bn digital display market in the UK, according to IAB and PwC figures, that would mean roughly GBP1bn -- yes, that's a billion pounds, went to advertisements that weren't served in a position where they could be viewed. 

I had always assumed that brands were a lot more concerned about this than the views expressed to The Drum would suggest. How can they be resigned to collectively flushing so much budget down the proverbial sink? This is made all the more pressing when you consider that so few people click on advertisements today that display has pretty much become the preserve of branding. How can you know, then, that you're raising awareness if you don't know your messages stand a chance of being seen?

It's a time for predictions, so here's one from me. If 2015 doesn't see more brands follow in MoneySupermarket's footsteps, I'll be very surprised. A brand can't solve the issue singlehandedly but it can at least decide which technology it uses to validate its media spend ,and it can also ensure its choice of ad shapes and bidding strategy maximise its chances of being seen.

Another prediction will be that in general, this whole issue is taken a whole lot more seriously. When there was a belief, albeit a hopeful one, that display had a direct response element to it, the problem wasn't so obvious because people were looking for click-throughs. Now that the realisation has dawned that display is about branding and budgets are devoted to being seen  rather than clicked on, marketers will need to be shown that their ads have been viewable.

That they are not more vocal in their disappointment, even when it's come to a point where more than half the media they buy isn't viewable, will continue to surprise me well into next year too.

2 comments about "Digital Marketers Get Mugged For a Billion Pounds - Why Aren't They More Angry?".
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  1. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow, December 10, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.

    I've got a few things to add.
    Even when digital advertising expenditure, does actually end up in the right place and seen, there is remarkably little evidence of it actually accomplishing anything.
    For me spending money on Digital is something clients need to be seen to be doing, it's the act of spending money where the eyaballs are that is considered success,not any results that may come of it.
    It's a bit like how some hedge funds have to own every share in the FTSE 100, it may be a bad idea, but they need a damn good reason and risk being fired for not.
    One day when we have more data, we can have more sensible discussions, but for the moment money needs to be spent in the trendy new places.

  2. Bryan Hill from Interxion, December 10, 2014 at 10:19 a.m.

    I agree that in 2015 we'll see more open discussion regarding viewability incl fraud. Beyond wasted marketing budgets I do think there's another issue at play. It is thought that much of ad fraud (botnets etc) is by organised crime. If indeed the case then there's a parallel in digital media between a % of the biggest brands' marketing budgets going towards criminal gangs just as content piracy from individuals supports criminal gangs. Digital advertising and programmatic are great- we just need improvements in the systems and transparency to minimise fraud wherever possible.

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