May 06, 2014

NY Times: 57% Of Online Video Ads Unviewable

For a long time we have been documenting the double-dealing and fraud that the sharpies in the online ad industry have been pulling on clueless clients.

This week The New York Times reported that the shenanigans going on in online video advertising may be equal to the astounding swindles going on in banner advertising.

According to a piece entitled The Great Unwatched:
  • "...more than half of online video ads are not seen, either because they are buried low on web pages or run in tiny, easily ignored video players on those pages, or run simultaneously with other ads."
  • " ad management platform company deemed 57 percent of two billion video ads surveyed over two months to be “unviewable.”
  • “The advertiser sees a report on an Excel spreadsheet that says, ‘Yeah, these ads ran,’ ” says Matt Timothy, Vindico’s president. “But more than half of them ran without being seen by a human being.”
  • " ad tech company...reported that it had discovered three new botnets that were generating 30 million fake video views a day, earning as much as $10 million a month."
  • "When ads are sold, even the media buyer that was initially given the contract to place the ads may not know where they are running." 
  • "Given the nearly $3 billion a year now spent on online video ads, and the 57 percent of them that are deemed unviewable, it’s safe to assume that American brands are now spending more than $1 billion a year on marketing that few if any people see."
Be sure to read the whole piece as these are just a few snippets.
Let's also recap some of the fraud going on in the banner ad business
  • A report in The Wall Street Journal found that 54% of banner ads run between May 2012 and February 2013 never appeared in front of a live human being.
If the study was projectable, this means that $7.5 billion in banner ad selling probably constituted some degree of deception or fraud.
  • According to Adweek, this could reach $9.5 billion this year.
  • Cnet reports that only 38% of traffic on the web is human. The rest are bots, scrapers, hackers, spammers and other impersonators.
To add insult to injury, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is coming up with guidelines to "police" online video ad viewability. Yeah, let's put Dracula in charge of the blood bank.

The president of a direct marketing firm had this to say, “Whether it’s the publishers, the ad platforms, the agencies that manage these activities. Right now, it behooves almost no one to clean up this mess.”

Oh, it behooves someone all right. But that someone is too fucking stupid to know what's going on.

The people it behooves are the alarmingly clueless advertisers who are being swindled out of billions a year. But they are so dumb and so mesmerized by the bullshit of their agencies and the online advertising crowd that they don't understand how deeply and vigorously they're being screwed.


Anders Bisgaard Madsen said...

So the obvious solution is to still ignore television, which is of course dying, and try to go viral. It cannot fail. Just follow the failproof guide: It's all about content.

How much of the viewing of a video gone viral, is fake?

Oh, Jesus, I was trying to make a joke and it backfired:

Gigaj said...

Then the question is: how big percentage of TV ads that are shown are actually viewed? It's not like people go to the fridge, change channels or use their iPads/phones/laptops during commercial breakes.

The same applies to any kind of advertising whether it's newspapers, direct mail, email marketing etc. These publications and mediums still sell adspace inventory, not actual views. Isn't that pretty much the same thing?

That being said, I do get the point that it's scammy to sell ads that are not seen and to say that they were seen.

Jim Powell said...

You are right that marketing is easily ignored where ever they are. It is more of an ethical one. As the linked article points out -

Kellogg’s found that, at various times, nearly a third of the ads it wanted to run in the United States were running in a foreign country, said Aaron Fetters, director of Kellogg’s Insights and Analytics Solutions Center.

Could they say the same regarding their DM, TV, Press, Posters, Cinema's and so on?

bob hoffman said...

Wrong. There is a huge difference.

As usual, people defending online advertising can't think straight.
Nobody claims TV ads aren't viewable. They may not be viewed, but they are viewable.

By not being viewable, online video spots start with a 57% disadvantage over TV before consumers decide to either view or not view.

Then, of course, there's the fraud.

Stephen Eichenbaum said...

Actually, the clients are often the cause of making these senseless buys, because they think the internet will be some magical, low-cost place where everyone can and will see their advertising. If they ever actually computed how much business (read:money) the internet really delivered,
they would be aghast. But most clients are in several media and have no clue which ones work.Therefore, they get what they deserve.

Neil Charles said...

"...more than half of online video ads are not seen, either because they are buried low on web pages or run in tiny, easily ignored video players on those pages, or run simultaneously with other ads."

And that's after you've already paid significantly more per claimed set of eyeballs viewing the ad, than you would have on TV.

Between unseen ads and lack of proof of effectiveness, the thing I really don't understand is how online video still commands a premium in cost per thousand views over and above a TV campaign. Online targeting would have to be hugely efficient in order to make up the difference and in most cases, it just isn't.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

I must be a bot. It feels like I get delivered every goddamn ad in creation the moment I try to read the bloody news. If this is 57% of ads not being viewable, I shudder to think what 100% of ads being viewable would be like.

LeShann said...

Talking of fraud, anyone looked at real circulation numbers for print lately? (On some publications we've seen a 10:1 ratio to claimed circulation)

LeShann said...

To be completely fair, the problem lies also with the "other" channels according to this article, eg not enough inventory driving advertisers who want to build their reach curve to alternative channels rather than focusing on more trustworthy ones. Bottom line is online video viewership in the US is still not big enough to sustain demand for advertisers - in great part because it is over estimated and reach/time spent numbers are irrelevant if we don't look at real ad inventory.

This, however, shouldn't stop us from acknowledging the fact that online video advertising works at least as well as TV when it is seen. In markets where online video viewership is huge, it plays an important role in reaching consumers.

Bentos said...

Not one mention of YouTube in that article, which is kind of weird considering it's talking about online video

Bert Pike said...

When the video was finished the client was able to "view" it so they, of course, considered it 'viewable.' That's all the proof required. Of course it will be viewable to everyone else. Why wouldn't it be? Y'think I'm going to ask a stupid question like, "Hey, will people actually be able to see this thing?" Geez man! I just saw it with my very own eyes! What more proof do I need? Excuse me, I just got an email from some Nigerian saying he has a trunk load of gems for me. BRB.

Bert Pike said...

Most MEDIA PLANNERS (or buyers or directors) feel obligated to 'appear as if' they know things they don't. They accept data on face value as fact even though it isn't. They'll even pass along the false facts as a way of demonstrating how much they know. A.K.A. 'Bullshit by Proxy. Questioning so called "Internet Media Facts" would require one of two things: 1.) Doing the work required to find the truth which many have neither the work ethic and/or skill set to do or 2.) Expose themselves as less-informed than they should be about matters they should be informed about. "Hmmm, he doesn't know that? Isn't he supposed to know that? Aren't we paying him to know that?"