Sure, we want to optimize for viewability. Sure, we want to ensure a trustworthy supply chain, and to purge fraud from the ecosystem. And sure, we want consumers to willingly accept our ads.
All of these things will make digital advertising better. But right now, digital advertising is delivering results for thousands of advertisers, including the world’s largest and best-known companies, who shift proportionately more of their precious adspend to our space each year. So today, let’s focus on some new findings that remind us of the continued efficacy of digital advertising, and of ways to use it even more effectively.
Latency planning can improve
A colleague of mine recently published a paper that demonstrates that ad latency (how long an exposure “works”) can be empirically measured at the campaign creative level. The paper suggests that planners could improve digital advertising ROI by optimizing based on latency, as opposed to simple frequency caps: the longer the latency, the less frequent the need for incremental exposure.
Conversely, though, latency planning suggests that incremental exposures are required to maximize efficiency as the length of the campaign increases. Rather than the somewhat blunt instrument of a frequency cap, latency planning suggests that exposure should be ongoing throughout the campaign, with time between exposures varied by latency of individual creative executions.
Another interesting finding in this paper was that the latency of video impressions is significantly longer than that of display ads. Some video impressions demonstrated latency (that is, had measurable impact) in excess of a week.
Non-viewable ads work too!
Yes, I know that statement is paradoxical. The catch is, we’re talking about ads that made it onto the screen, but in a fashion insufficient to qualify as viewable based on industry standards for either % of pixels (50%; 30% for large formats) or duration (1 second; 2 seconds for video).
A second paper found that ads that made it to the user’s screen, but failed to qualify as viewable based on the industry standard thresholds, can (but don’t always) contribute a measurable, positive impact on overall campaign performance. Still, the paper concludes that “In all cases, viewable ads were substantially more effective than non-viewable ads, supporting both the definition of viewability (for display) and viewability measurement.” This also means that ads work better if more of the ad makes it on-screen for a longer time -- intuitively obvious, but nice to have validated.
In the TV space there is a lot of research to demonstrate that program environment (and viewer engagement) has a material bearing on ad performance. In, digital though, with so much business shifting to programmatic channels where the advertiser often doesn’t know in advance where the impressions will run, I think we’ve paid far too little attention to the impact of environment on ad performance.
So I was happy to see that in some of the work my company is doing on ad effectiveness, we are seeing measurable variability in ad performance by publisher environment. It will be important to dig further into this topic, but I’m certain based on what we’ve seen so far that the same piece of creative shown to the same consumer will perform better if the exposure is via a prominent placement on a site offering premium branded content.
Mobile ads are high performers, particularly at the bottom of the funnel
As consumers continue to shift their share of time spent with digital media from computers to mobile devices -- in September, 65% -- mobile ad effectiveness becomes an increasingly urgent topic for advertisers and publishers. We’ve seen mobile ads delivering over three times the lift of computer ads with respect to purchase intent -- perhaps because consumers engaged with mobile media are by definition closer to the point of purchase for any goods or services purchased offline.
While small screen size is an issue that advertisers and agencies need to navigate, mobile’s real promise may well lie in the extent to which mobile platforms enable advertisers to reach consumers when they’re ready to buy.
To be sure, we all still have homework to do about viewability, fraud, ad blocking, and whatever issue rears its head tomorrow. But we should remember the strong place we’re starting from, and be optimistic that continued research advancements will only make digital advertising stronger.