November 25, 2013

Astounding News From Moronsville

You simply cannot make this shit up.

Just when you think the world of online advertising can't get any more absurd, the banner boys prove you wrong again.

Let's start at the beginning.

On June 13, we wrote about an article in The Wall Street Journal that reported on a study by comScore which found that 54% of display ads paid for by advertisers were never seen by a live human being.

About a month ago, a digital media company created an infographic about this finding. Not satisfied to leave bad enough alone, they decided that it required some commentary.

Here's what these people deduced:
"...higher rates of viewability drive increased action through the effect of accumulated ad-views."
For those of you who speak English, what this bullshit means is that ads that are seen are more effective than ads that are not seen. How's that for a stunning insight?

Gosh, what next? Cars with wheels go faster than cars without wheels? Rats with brains are smarter than online ad geniuses rats without brains?
"With a move to marketers only paying for adverts that are seen, this infographic highlights a sea change in online advertising."
"Marketers only paying for adverts that are seen." Huh? What kind of fucking moron would pay for ads that are not seen? I mean, besides a CMO?

I would like to suggest that this is not a sea change. It's a see change...we'd like someone to see our fucking ads for a change.

Expecting ads to be seen is apparently a radical new "approach" in the never-never-land of online advertising.
“Brand marketers are able to use this approach to safeguard the quality of their advertising inventory, whilst performance marketers can benefit from the increased response that is triggered by more viewable advertising.”
I don't even know what to say about this monumental stupidity. But here's the line that really got me:
"If an ad is in view, your audience is more likely to act upon it."
No shit? You mean an ad works better if someone can see it? Well fuck me blind.

And to impress us with their "data" here's a graph that proves that visible ads get more clicks than invisible ones.
This is what passes for thinking in the amateurish, confused, corrupt pile of crap that is the online ad industry. It is the land of the absurd.

Big thanks to Christopher for sending me this link.


  1. the best part (for me), apart from pointing out the painfully obvious, is all the sitting back and basking in that space cadet glow of waiting for us to catch on to what geniuses they are …

    shocking revelation : most people actually do see the ads, they just ignore them, it's just filtered out at this point into the background noise that populates the web … but hats off to them for making it so concise and so clear with that whole info graphic showing how much is seen by so few … can't wait for the next gripping installment of "Things A 5 Year Old Takes For Granted … Now With More Charts!"

  2. lol this article made me smirk. A nice take on all the self themed ad gurus and pundits!

  3. I saw a wonderful piece last week that said that giant billboards are noticed more than regular size ones. Something the size of two city blocks would grab my eye too..

  4. I really wish they'd explain why, in their awesome graph, the "non-viewable' ads are getting clicks.

  5. Not that I disagree with the premise but last time I checked, plenty o advertisers are paying for ads in traditional media that are never seen.

  6. The infographic is stating the obvious but is making a point about optimization that I've had to make in email marketing as well. Clients often get excited about big numbers, which they mistake for an indication of value. People who know this stuff realize that an email list of 1mm people who never click is less valuable than one that has 100k of people who click regularly. Yet it is surprisingly hard to convince people to clean up their lists. In display, it's easy to get caught up in impressions and share of voice, rather than focusing on what really matters: impressions that result in actions by customers. The infographic is intended to make the argument that traditional optimizations are based on the wrong metric. Beyond obvious to all here, but not so obvious to someone trying to explain why they aren't comping last year's SOV. I don't believe this kind of thing is limited to the digital marketing world, unless clients who deal with traditional are always wise and well-informed.

  7. True, but only once or twice before someone says "Wait a minute, these ads don't seem to be pulling.' instead of "Thank you sir! May I have another!"

  8. I could only imagine they were robot clicks - essentially fraud.

  9. here is a stat for ya

    17,701,711 users That is how many folks are using AdBlock Plus in Firefox right now

    but Bob? Can't i infer the ad placement and get the implied message without seeing the ad? I would think that invisible ads and their call to action would be frictionless since I don't have to read it and save valuable energy not having to click on it.

    think of this as "greening" the ad biz....

  10. It has to be a pitch-perfect parody.

  11. Honestly, that was my first thought.

  12. On a purely technical level, how exactly does one measure frequency of exposure to 'non-viewable' ads?

  13. Yes, but if an ad IS viewed on a tablet in the woods but no-one tweets about it, does it still make a sound?

  14. No, but it does count as an engagement.

  15. Apparantly someone actually followed up when they put on their boxershorts which had the print on the back "Please insert head here"
    Because really?
    I mean REALLY?
    In what way is this different from ANY other medium?
    TV, Radio, or Print ads... which we know that everyone watching, listening, reading them actually.... or maybe not either?

    I'm not saying online advertising is any good... I'm just saying that this rant is completely unnessary - Alas, this is the way ALL advertising works.

    BTW: visible still does not mean seen.

  16. Not too many things make me laugh out loud anymore at my ripe old age of 30, this was incredible Bob. Your blog has turned me into the happiest pessimist in the world.

  17. Of course. But let's be honest, most forms of advertising have this invisibility challenge. I would estimate more than 50% of TV spots sold or newspaper ads on page B6 are never actually seen, vs. the impression estimates used to sell them to marketers. Nielsen reports the average U.S. consumer has the TV on, er, is "watching TV," for 4 1/2 hours each day. That works out to more than 600 television spots "served" per day per person. Think of the last magazine you read -- did you "see" all the ads? Half of them? Because they were all sold based on a theoretical impression against you. I agree it's silliness that most digital ads aren't seen. Welcome to the entire world of media.

  18. Ben,

    You're seriously confused here. There's an enormous difference between ads that people ignore and ads that never actually run.

    It's certainly true that many TV spots and magazine ads are ignored. But at least they RUN. At least SOME people can see them.

    Online advertising has the double whammy of alarmingly large amounts not actually running, and those that do run being overwhelmingly ignored.

    It is only in the insane logic of online advertising that a company would be clueless enough to create a infographic asserting that "viewable" ads are more effective than "non-viewable" ones.

  19. Engagement - proof that 'nothing' is actually quantifiable.

    That is, as long as you don't think about it too much.

  20. The information is presented in a manner in which the gentlemen either doesn't understand the study, or has decided to cherry pick the information to suit his needs.

  21. This topic is something which need attention and shares in social media...

  22. Great piece-gave me a laugh! Like a newspaper headline I saw the other day-'cold snap to last 3 months' yep-that's winter!