February 27, 2014

Much Better Yellow Pages. Much Worse Television.

In One Sentence
It took me seven years (I'm a little slow) but I figured how to describe the web as an advertising medium in one sentence. Here it is:
The web is a much better yellow pages and a much worse television.
You can quote me on that.

On Second Thought...
I've had second thoughts about my last post (The Epic Screwing Of Online Advertisers.)

The second thoughts are not about the conclusion that online advertisers are getting screwed. There's plenty of evidence for that. My second thoughts are about the data and the math that the guy used who wrote the article I was quoting.

He says that 15% of the "impressions" are technical errors, 60% are bots, and 25% are fraud. If my math is correct, that's 100%. All impressions can't be bogus because I seem to remember seeing an online ad somewhere.

Then he concludes that 85% of online impressions are phony. I don't know where that number comes from unless he is adding the bots and the fraud together, But this can't be right either, since some of the bots must be included in the fraud number.

Then he reduces by 54% because 54% of ads are not "visible." But this number must also be a sub-set of either the bot or fraud number.

So where does that leave us?

First, the definition of an online impressions is still bullshit. Next,  15% technical errors is still huge. The fact that 60% of online traffic is bots is still mind-blowing. The 25% fraud number actually seems low to me based on what I've read. And the 54% "invisibility" factor is well-documented.

However, I don't think it's mathematically correct to add the errors, bots, fraud and visibility factors together as it seems like it's double or triple counting. The impression shortfall is certainly very big, but I'm not sure this guy has it right.


LeShann said...

I don't want to over defend display ad impressions, because it's a measure that I don't like much, and a format I don't particularly like. However some notes need to be made:
1/ Indeed these numbers are off, and they don't take into account that a decent amount of effort is made to limit the tracking of bots in the first place. But yes, if a digital specialist comes and tells you that an impression is effectively seen by a human, he is lying through his/her teeth, the fact is well known (and I haven't met many CMOs who were foolish on that point either).
2/ There are ways through ad serving to measure the "visibility" of an ad impressions that eliminate a good chunk of the fraud. Comscore have one, Google is launching one. Not perfect, but going in the right direction at least. Ironically though, a lot of advertisers don't think it's worth it to pay an extra % of their ad spend to eliminate up to 60% of their wastage.
3/ there are ad formats that are more visible than others - putting all display formats in the same basket is akin to comparing classified ads with four page spreads.
4/ Mobile is actually a really interesting area right now for display, as we see much higher visibility and increasing reliability in the tracking (it's a lot harder for a mobile ad to be missed than it is for a display ad). So all is not lost, and adjusted on cost per reach there are worthwhile things to do with this.

Sadder even is the reality that no media is reliably tracked. We have evidence that TV spots are often skipped/ignored entirely, very little evidence that outdoor is noticed by even half of the audience they are attributed to reach, or that magazine pages are flicked by anyone. We almost always work by proxy, and frankly the advertising industry as a whole has had a serious visibility issue for a while now, not just in digital media. But as I said when I started, my point is not to say that banner ads are awesome, or that digital is the holy grail of advertising they're not.
Here is, however, where I would start to disagree with you: the web is not a "much worse television" anymore. Aspects of it is, and interactivity/engagement is very wildly overrated. But we have plenty of evidence that online pre-roll is as effective (sometimes more) as TVCs, and we see a huge number of consumers switching to online viewing vs TV viewing, meaning the reach is there. This is the reason why mix reach optimizations are all the craze at the moment, because we do see better results when they happen. We can also see some clear competitive advantage for brands that invest daringly on digital pre rolls. In China, the market I work in, the effects are huge and the importance of online pre-roll is massive. Ultimately, the digital / traditional distinction is obsolete. We need to redefine media not in terms of physical channels they're consumed, but in terms of format. And from this perspective, video advertising still is, and will be for a very long time, the best way to advertise a product, regardless of which piece of glass it's watched on.

Favpapa said...

Having spent my 20+ year career in television and Internet advertising, I am compelled to point out the flawed thinking of the poster. Even if the 60% research re: bots is 100% accurate, the cpm for reaching an Internet audience s still just a fraction of the cost of reaching a tv audience. Further tv advertising has demons to fight as well commonly known as DVR and now the Hopper. Can you say fast forward please? I guess this obvious oversight is why the poster is called ad contrarian rather than ad guru.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Someone's got his knickers in a twist. 1) Your experience is of little value, as we cannot track it. You could have said 100 years and it would have the same effect. Anonymity has its benefits. This is the cost. 2) CPM is bullshit, and is especially useless in digital due to the way reach is (mis)calculated. Ad appeared on part of the page the viewer never scrolled to? Doesn't matter - got paid. The ability to move product is the point. 3) The DVR, Tivo, etc., are, statistically speaking, insignificant. Look it up. You should know this if you've been doing TV ads for 20 years.

And, of course, anonymity cuts both ways. So you can very easily ignore my response. Or can you?

adwench said...

I agree with Bob but haven't the young folks replaced the TV with the web?

Favpapa said...

Cecil b? Really, now who is anonymous. Your rant is too utterly uninformed and ridiculous to waste my time to try and educate you on strategy to maximize digital presence via AS positioning or leveraging the now commom place cpc/ppc. There is not a perfect model in advertising anywhere, all vehicles...yes your beloved tv included, are fraught with challenges for today's. marketers. However the objective of any business owner, marketing director or ad agency is to maximize ROI...which is why digital continues to be the fastest growing advertising vehicle. You must be the author of that ridiculous post, to issue that foaming at the mouth response.

Max said...

This ad made me think of your blog:
Apparently, so did the ad agency making it (when it comes to one special part and insight. You'll know what I mean).

acmasterpainter said...

An obvious statistical ad misguidance is where magazine sites split 10 images and taglines into 10 pages. This ads no value to the reader, if anything it adds annoyance, but obviously it is done this way because it multiplies "traffic" and impressions by 10 compared to a conventional single page article with 10 images in a list.

Jon P said...

Even the guys who calculate the ineffectiveness of online ads are ineffective!

nm said...

Good job you didn't spread this mistake throughout the advertising community by getting it into Campaign magazine. Oh, wait a minute, you did.