July 16, 2014

The Dumbest People On Earth?

Just when you think the online advertising industry can't get any more absurd, they prove once again how groundbreakingly awesome they are.

The current buffoonery is over "viewability."

You see, twenty years into online advertising, advertisers are finally getting their heads out of their behinds and realizing that about half the ads they have been paying for are not viewable.

We're not talking here about the 99.9% of online ads that are ignored because they are so fucking ugly and stupid. We're talking about 50% of all ads that are supposed to appear on a page but don't.

Even if someone was dumb enough to want to look at these things they can't because they ain't there.

Of course, the online publishing industry is shocked... shocked I tell you!
You wanted your ads to be VIEWABLE? Oh, why didn't you say so? We thought you just wanted to pay us for...well, for being like so hip and cutting edge and totally techno and having like metrics and data and shit.
So now the morons who have been buying this crap for 20 years are playing hardball with the publishers. They are insisting that their ads be viewable. Next these bedwetters will be going to restaurants insisting that their meals be edible. Whiners.

But here's the best part.

The Media Ratings Council (whoever the hell they are) has an official standard for "viewability." If half the pixels of an ad are viewable for one continuous second, the ad is deemed to be "Officially Viewable."

I love the "one continuous second" thing. Because, you know, if half the pixels are viewable for, like, two halves of a second, that shit just ain't gonna work. But one continuous second, well, that's advertising gold!

Here's what an agency research genius has to say about this:
"...calling for more than one second in-view would be difficult to execute, potentially pushing the pendulum too far..."
Oh no, we wouldn't want to push that pendulum past one second. Someone might actually notice the fucking thing.

Amazingly, this quote appears in an article entitled "The Viewability Debate: Being Seen Is Good, but One Second Isn't Enough" -- written by the same person who is afraid to push the pendulum past one second. Someone is very confused.

Well, whatever the agency and research dimwits have to say, the bottom line is this -- you have to give the online advertising sales industry credit. It takes an astounding degree of artistry and talent to grow at double digit rates when you're selling something that is:
Either the people selling this stuff are the smartest people on earth, or the people buying it are the dumbest.


Ben said...

For some reason this is the AC post I've enjoyed the most (rhyme intended).

Michael said...

Alright, I'm taking the bait (and hopefully not missing some satire).

Yawn, another conveniently, populist and myopic whinge about display advertising. You fail to mention that unlike some other forms of advertising (press and outdoor) that go unseen and withered for many given seconds, minutes and hours of any day, a lot of this 'invisible' inventory can be bought on performance (that is pay per click) and should then be optimised to engagement. And even if it can't, can be measured to work within a broader set of marketing objectives, used powerfully in conjunction with other channels, to stack exposure to a message upon pre-qualification (retargeting, similar audiences etc...).

I'm not saying Display Advertising doesn't have its share of significant issues or shysters and that a majority of advertisers are even using it as described above, I'm just saying, why not curb your contrary and luddite pandering just long enough to realise that you're ignoring the log in the eye of advertising in general, to be held aloft for reveling in the denunciation of the speck in digital's.

bob hoffman said...

So, let me get this straight...

Ads that CANNOT BE SEEN can be bought on performance, then optimized for engagement, and then measured for marketing objectives, and then used powerfully and then... oh, never mind...you're right. This stuff is amazing.

Michael said...

Firstly, is there not a difference between


I glanced the front page of my local paper today but didn't read any further than that. The ads in the remainder of the paper WERE NOT SEEN but they were paid for right? I assume one argument is that that's understood about press and is built in to the rate.

If so, why can't we afford the same concession to display ads? Which, lets go with the sake of my argument for now, are at the very least comparable to press ads in this fashion. Yet even better, unlike a press ad, we now know how many times (half) the banner was seen (min 1s). Besides which, with performance buying (CPC) for the rest of the time banners are not seen, who cares, you're only paying when its clicked anyway!? Am I missing something?

Again, I know there are concerns about impression authenticity etc... no argument from me there, regulation is required in this area, I'm just saying, it's a measurable medium, advertisers should take advantage of this fact and if banners aren't contributing to intended outcomes, they should be dealt with accordingly. Which is a luxury not so easily come by with other forms of marketing, yet they're conveniently spared the scrutiny.

Anyway... I'm just busting chops here. This is a bugbear of mine (clearly). I'm a big fan I promise.

LeShann said...

Well, now that we're realizing all this talk about "engagement" was pretty deluded, truth is we have to look again at good old "interruption" metrics, and this is not too shiny for a lot of digital publishers. The digital industry that does not sell video pre-roll is in for a proper hangover - and seeing the explosion of rock bottom bidding formats, some are already on the floor.

LeShann said...

I'm not display's biggest fan but I agree based on all the campaign reports I've seen over the last few years. Awareness is not display's strong suit by any stretch of the imagination (I say usually because some rare formats are actually not that bad), but capitalizing on intent generated by other media formats and funnelling evaluation is something they can be very cost effective for. In some cases more so than search. You won't build a brand with it, but some industry verticals are very happy with display (usually those that have a strong evaluation phase, like cars or cosmetics).

tim said...

WERE NOT SEEN means the ads displayed but, for whatever reason, did not have any impact. Usually because they sucked or were place in the wrong publication, location or 'channel' (God, I hate that word).

CANNOT BE SEEN means the ads were never displayed. It doesn't matter if they sucked or were brilliant, Nobody could see them even if they wanted to.

johndodds said...

They used to call this subliminal.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

When a TV ad doesn't run (is not viewable), there are make-goods. Networks stumble over themselves to apologize and try to make the advertiser happy because they pay the bills.

When a display ad doesn't run (is not viewable), the seller of display ads still gets paid. There is no rush to make good, even though make-goods cost them essentially nothing. Advertising still pays the bills.

Effective or not, that's just piss-poor customer service. It's also good work if you can get it, I suppose.

Alexandre Lamarre said...

There's a typo in the title, you put an unnecessary question mark.

James Maclean said...

I can honestly say that despite being Gen-Y, I've never intentionally clicked a banner in my life. I wouldn't be adverse to doing so, I just think they're innately crap and haven't seen one that interests me (despite Google/Facebook's best targeting efforts). Even the most creative examples are mundane at best. It's interesting that the inventors of the banner are ashamed of their creation.

I wouldn't go as far as boiling all digital down to banners though. In my mind a banner is the equivalent of a small ad in the back of the classifieds - jammed between "horny housewife seeks BBC", and "Pine footstool for sale (missing 2 legs)". There are some stunning digital and social campaigns that entertain you and, just sometimes, actually help make your life a little easier. They're still pretty raw and in most cases simply complement the other forms of media out there, but I wouldn't write the medium off as whole. I would look to mobile apps, destination sites and social media (which is peculiarly considered separately to digital), as opposed to the humble banner.

What does get my goat, and I assume makes up a significant part of Bob's irritation with digital, is the constant pronouncements over the past few years that TV, Press, Radio and DM are all dead. Digital is heralded as the new king who will destroy all before them. It's total crap. Radio didn't kill Press, TV didn't kill radio, DM didn't kill TV and Digital won't kill any of the others.

What has happened is Radio has become DAB/Spotify, TV has become iPlayer/Hulu and the Press has become the Huffington Post/Grauniad.com. Nothing has changed fundamentally, TV ads still play on YouTube, Press ads still display on your iPad and Radio ads still play on Spotify. What is exciting is that they can click through directly, and if (a big IF) you can make you ad (and I refuse to call it content) entertaining/interesting/compelling enough then they may just want to do it. If not then you'll have to employ that most unfashionable of methods, persuasion/branding, to achieve your client's goals.

Now a significant part of my career has been spent in digital, on occasion desperately trying to make banners interesting. 'Buy Now' or 'Learn More' etc etc...and what I would say is that it's a useful and young form of media, but banners are not the answer and all that has really changed is the technology used to deliver the messages. Did the great creatives of the 60's and 70's give a shit how Logie Baird made pictures appear in your front room? Of course not.

We should embrace the new technology but our jobs are fundamentally the same, unless of course you're media buyer, head of digital insights or wonderfully titled technologist. For the rest of us it's still about flogging our wares.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Agree. Words list. Add as you see fit.


Stephen Eichenbaum said...

I'm going with the people buying it being the dumbest.
I have had prospective clients in Chapter 11, that still wanna use this
ineffective form of advertising.Even in the face of bankruptcy, they have learned zip.