If An Advert Shows and Nobody Watches It – Is It An Advert?

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And more importantly, will you be charged for it?

Digital spend is expected to tip television spend in 2017 but after a run of bad press over third-party websites, inappropriate content and fraudsters making the most of an advertising market catching up with technology, what’s the future for campaigns and the marketing strategies behind them?

Digital stats often sound too good to be true, offering more metrics than traditional channels ever could, but what should we be looking for from digital spend?

Viewability seems to be the latest buzz word which is holding to account publishers responsible for demonstrating the value of their spend –  the Internet Advertising Bureau UK believe in maximising ad viewability and are working across the industry to develop cross-platform standards. Measuring if an advert was actually seen, if it loaded on different devices etc, will increasingly be part and parcel of what advertisers will showcase and third parties like Integral Ad Science  are increasingly showing the importance of showing this.

The Media Ratings Council (MRC) standard is that digital ads should be 50% in view for 2 seconds otherwise advertisers will not be charged. Twitter also promised more, saying that ads on its website and apps should be 100% in view for at least three seconds – something that has yet to be realised, instead sticking with the MRC standard.

Whilst seeing as properly may sound like a given, it’s more of an issue than you might think, with some stats indicating that up to 54% of adverts aren’t viewable (comScore 2017). For many marketers with digital spend, the shift from impressions-served to an impressions-viewed standard is something they may already be experiencing, but some cynics say that this could inflate costs and consistency is still somewhat of an issue.

In 2017 Facebook has begun to let third parties through their walled gardens, some say way behind others but after reports that video viewability can be as low as 20% and with mounting ad spend pressure, we are likely to see more efficacy on viewability to come.

So, were digital campaigns lauding improbable statistics early on? Maybe, but often the old adage of ‘if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is’ rings fiercely. As marketers, our role surely isn’t to get excited about the latest shiny new thing but deeply assess whether a channel, platform or tool is going to deliver actual value to the ROI and objectives we’re trying to achieve and more importantly get to grips with what the metrics are actually telling us. So essentially yes the stats were too good and the digital market extolled itself and played on marketeers’ ‘not understanding’.

If digital advertising can be transparent about how it reaches out to real humans, charge for actual ads viewed and reset the KPI’s and metrics around it – involving publishers, media agencies and brands (in a weird love triangle), we may just get somewhere.

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash