January 19, 2016

Still No Standard Unit Of Online Advertising

Among the many problems that plague online advertising, there is one that seems to have gone unnoticed. After 20 years, there is still no standard unit.

TV has the :30 second spot.
Radio has the :60 second spot.
Print has the page
Outdoor has the board.

This doesn't mean there are no variations on these units, but at least we have a standard workable unit.

What is the standard unit of digital advertising?

God help us if it's the banner.
Is it the social something?
Or the content something?
Or the native something?

If so, what is the something -- what is the unit?

If you have a realistic strategy and produce decent creative work you can plug it into one of the standard units of TV, radio, print or outdoor and have a reasonable chance of effectiveness.

But what is the online equivalent?

I guess you could argue that this absence of a standard unit is the strength of the medium -- that it is more malleable and flexible. But the facts contradict this assertion.

There are so few major non-web-native brands that have been built by online advertising, that it's hard to see how this argument could hold water.

Display advertising is riddled with fraud, corruption, and phony metrics.

Social media marketing has seen a handful of big successes and an ocean of flops.

Content success is impossible to define because content is impossible to define.

And in the fullness of time I think we will find that native advertising turns out to be just as spectral as all the other online methodologies.

It seems to me more and more likely that the standard unit of online advertising is going to turn out to be some variation of the TV spot.

What a disappointment that would be.

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