May 28, 2015

Invisible Ads Are Good For You

I had the opportunity to read a truly awful piece of nonsense this weekend about the "viewability" problem with online advertising.

This putrid thing was written by the ceo of an online media company. He wasted 10 minutes of my life with a logic-torturing argument that came to the conclusion that invisible ads are actually a good thing.

Of course, as we have written many times before, all these knucklehead apologists (for the fact that half of all online ads never appear before a live human) start with the John Wanamaker quote about "half my ads..." you know the rest. The morons always start with this quote. Always.

Then they try to equate invisibility with inattention:
"When do we hear about TV ads not being watched, or how about radio ads not being heard? Or even newspaper ads when the page is not turned?" 
Okay, amigo, I'm going to explain this to you and your drooling propagandists one more time. Then I'm going to show it to you with pictures -- like a 5-year-old -- so maybe you'll get it.

There is a difference between people not paying attention to an ad, and an ad not running. All advertising is subject to inattention (especially your precious banner ads.) But if 50% of online ads are invisible (as The Wall Street Journal reported) then an online advertiser is in double jeopardy.

First, half his ads don't appear. And then the half that do appear are still subject to "the Wanamaker effect."

Here it is in pictures.

We start with two campaigns (represented below by two ads for Billboard magazine.) One is a traditional ad and one is an online display ad.

Then we factor in the "invisibility" problem.  Since there is no problem with traditional advertising actually appearing, we get the following result.

Then we factor in the John Wanamaker, "half my advertising is wasted..." factor, and we get this:

When only half of the advertising you are buying is visible, and half of that is ignored, 75% of you advertising money is wasted.

The truth, of course, is much more damaging to online advertising because way more online advertising is ignored than TV advertising. But I'm too exhausted to get into that.

The great thing about this guy's article is that once you get past the stupidity, you get to the real point. He thinks invisible advertising is not a problem because even though the advertiser gets royally screwed, it still provides him -- the ceo of a media company -- with precious data.

I've got news for you, pal. Advertisers aren't in business to provide you with anything.


Dan Plant said...

I saw that article the other day and thought of you - you've articulated my frustrations with your usual aplomb - thankyou.

One thing that I keep getting frustrated with is that in the digital space they have combined the concepts of "possible to be seen" and "definitely has been in line of sight" into one term "viewable".

In traditional media we have always talked in terms of OTS - Opportunity To See. That means that if someone picks up a newspaper, he has a realistic chance to see every single advert in that newspaper. We also acknowledge that he may only read the sport pages or just turn straight to the cross word. For that reason we will pay more for an ad on the cover than we will for one buried in the middle somewhere. However we would obviously never pay for an ad that didn't actually appear in the newspaper or which had something else printed on top of it rendering it unreadable. Its so obvious, it never needed to be said before!

The first type of ad described above is "viewable" even if not "viewed" the second type is "unviewable" and therefore not an ad!

However in a digital world they are referring to ads "below the fold" as "unviewable" if the reader doesn't scroll down to it where what they actually mean is that it is "unviewed"

This is weird because they are doing themselves a disservice here because if they report viewability stats as including these below the fold ads the numbers end up being even lower than reality.

However I think they are doing this because it allows them to muddy the waters in articles such as the one you highlighted and they can act all hard-done by because they are being held to a higher standard.

In fact we are not holding them to a higher standard we are simply asking that when we pay to run an ad it actually is possible for a person to see it. we just want there to be an "opportunity to see". Is that really too much to ask?

Cecil B. DeMille said...

The answer is that his mind works like a banner ad. Half the time it isn't there, and most of the time we should ignore it even if it is.

Curvingthunder said...

When I read your books and posts I hear comedian Lewis Black's voice speaking to me.

Tim Orr said...

I suspect I read the same article. What stunned me was that the guy was incapable of distinguishing between ads that are "view-able" and those that are "viewed."

Not all ads that are viewable are viewed. But all ads that are not viewable are not viewed. And what possible excuse can media have for charging money for ads that are not viewable? Oh, I forget. The Internet changed everything. Including ethics.

Mark Pilipczuk said...

I read the article by Mr. Laskar and can only shake my head. His article reads like one of the pre-crash sales calls I used to get in 1998 with salesmen telling me "I just don't get it" when I declined to buy things called "eyeballs." At least back then, they used to promise viewership!

VinnyWarren said...

and if you have Adblock, this feels like like an argument from the Victorian age. Facebook still has ads huh?

Guest said...

the reason I trust car salesmen more than digital experts.