WPP's Sorrell: Is Video Advertising Worth It?

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell is getting headlines today for his half-year earning presentation that assessed the impact of China’s economic implosion.  But his comments about measurement of digital video advertising should be creating some buzz with marketers.

To put it succinctly, according to a report from Business Insider, Sorrell said some advertisers wonder if online video advertising has value. And if it does, if the industry is adequately measuring it.

Referring to ad buys on YouTube and Facebook in particular, Sorrell said an unnamed client suggested "it's all overplayed and that the video focus and the value there is not proven."

The problem, this client said--and Sorrell echoed by repeating it--is that the industry (and Facebook and YouTube) standards for viewability are far too lax to be meaningful measures. Sorrell said the client said advertisers were far too acquiescent in accepting digital ad standards that count an ad as viewed if 50% of the image is viewed for at least two seconds. That, Sorrell implied, is an awfully loose standard. And on the other hand, maybe television is being under-represented.

"Nielsen data we think is not up to scratch because it overestimates online and underestimates offline," Sorrell said, according to the Business Insider report.

The business news site points out WPP is not just a advertising superpower stirring up the pot. It’s an advertising superpower that has a few of its toes in the measurement business, so casting doubt/shame/ridicule could be seen as self-serving.

WPP also collects data through Kantar Media, owns a $300 million stake in comScore ad and a chunk of TV rater Rentrak. But what gives Sorrell’s comments extra weight is that questions about online video’s viewability standard is the very viewable 800 pound gorilla in the room. You don’t have to be knighted to know that.

The giant ad agency and one of its giant clients have been on this warpath for a while. In 2014, WPP’s Group M and its mega-client Unilever insisted on tougher standards than the one that existed, pushing the viewability standard onto the front burner where it has simmered and bubbled ever since. Sometimes obvious self-interest can be useful to everybody else, too.

2 comments about "WPP's Sorrell: Is Video Advertising Worth It? ".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from, August 26, 2015 at 4:03 p.m.

    We can create specialized search engines aggregating from YouTube that embeds video and harvests clicks for the sponsoring channel and the advertiser on that channel.  More importantly, the specialized search engine, unlike YouTube, provides a rich visual environment of all curated content that supports a unified message or theme, as we do with, voices of sustainability. Specialized search engines developed  by organizations with high levels of integrity reinforce the trust our citizens are looking for when considering products and services.  It's really in the end not about faulty measurement, but faulty, short term perspectives. Might be a good time to recall Marshall McLuhan's observation, "We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us."  We need more shaping going on. 

  2. Robert Helstrom from Sightly, Inc., September 2, 2015 at 6:03 p.m.

    We agree with Sir Martin that the industry standard for viewability is a low bar. Interesting, though, that he questions the value of ad buys on YouTube. If we're talking about the TrueView format, especially in-stream, we've found advertisers see huge value in that they pay only when a viewer watches their full ad vs. worrying about whether their impressions were viewable or not. Add our audience micro-targeting, personalized ad creation, scaling of campaigns to meet their national, regional or local objectives, and you begin to understand what they see in it.

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