Why It's Time Digital Display Got Creative, Like Digital Outdoors

We all talk about viewability a lot in the ad industry. It's for a good reason. Nobody wants their campaign to be under the fold or not be rendered for long enough that it meets the MRC and IAB UK standard of 50% of pixels for a second. It is a very low standards bar -- everyone knows that -- but just how modest a target it is becomes clear when you take a look at the latest research from Lumen.

It uses eye-tracking technology to go beyond how long an ad was viewable for and instead measure for how long it was actually viewed. The results are not for the faint-hearted. Only 44% are actually noticed at all and of these, just 9% are viewed for a second while only 4% make it to the two-second mark. As such, the researchers conclude that while 40% of print ads are looked at for a second or more, this falls to 9% for digital.

Perhaps the real nugget in the research was the finding that gets mentioned at the bottom of Marketing Week's coverage and which I would be tempted to make the headline. The digital display ads that get the most attention are beautifully crafted units that look like a creative team has put a lot of work into them. They are most definitely not what the researchers refer to as "moving direct mail pieces."

In other words, advertisers do not directly control viewability, although they can measure it and ensure they are not billed for unviewable media. However, they can directly control their ad's chances of being viewed for a second or longer, once it becomes viewable. The way they do this is the most old-fashioned approach of all -- get a creative team to build a beautiful ad that catches the eye or perhaps get a copywriter to write something that stops a Web user in their tracks.

In plain and very simple language, if you want to catch the eye, you need to make it eye-catching. i've had many a discussion with media agency people who will secretly lament the quality of digital display. Because so much of it is fired out at such great pace, it is rare for brands to put a lot of effort in. The result is spray and pray ads go unnoticed.

Thus, the researchers at Lumen suggest that digital display should take a leaf out of digital outdoors and invest some creative juices in to making imagery that captivates the eye. You only have to walk around a modern shopping centre to have your eye drawn to fantastic-looking creative on digital billboards and posters. According to the researchers, it's this creative input that is needed in digital display to get to a point where more than 4% -- or just roughly one in twenty ads -- are viewed for two seconds or longer.

1 comment about "Why It's Time Digital Display Got Creative, Like Digital Outdoors".
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  1. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, July 29, 2016 at 12:32 p.m.

    Not only a terrific reminder of the value and leverage of brilliant creative which are are starting to see more and more in DOOH in all its formats but also of the fundamental importance of audience measurement at the ad exposure, fully viewed (as opposed to "viewable" - there is a difference!), ad contact or Eyes-On (or Ears Before) versus OTS or gross impression measurment.  Only meaningful ad exposure measurement delivers the real accountability required by advertisers that ensures their "brilliant" ads are exposed and can be effective.  In the US only OOH is measured at this required level.  How much longer is the industry going to use media measurement at the gross impression or OTS level and pay egegious amounts for such imprecise information that is a cornestone to massive media investments?  

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