“There is no consistent measure of success when it comes to brand advertising, especially in digital.” The many definitions of what constitutes a viewable ad, including these two, exemplify this:
- According to The Media Rating Council (MRC), for desktop display ad to be viewable 50% of the ad needs to be on screen for a continuous second; for a video ad 50% of the ad needs to be on screen for two continuous seconds.
- In contrast, a major agency requires that to be considered viewable, a desktop display ad must have 100% of the ad on screen for one second, while a video ad must have 100% of the ad visible on screen for at least half of its duration with the audio on.
Regardless of the definition used, all definitions of viewability acknowledge that digital ads are often not seen or heard in full. “What you’ll see across all these benchmarks is that fairly consistently, depending on the format and depending on the benchmark … about 50% of the ads are viewable.”
Fraud compounds the problem. Viewability, measured by time and percentage of ad on screen, does not consider that “in Q4 of 2017, about 3% of all of display impressions that were served around the world were delivered to a non-human endpoint.” Advertisers should ask two questions as part of considering fraud and viewability, though that is not enough: “Was an ad delivered to a person? And did they see it? … But we think you need to go further.”
The reason? Today’s ad measures are contributing to an environment that negatively affects consumers. “Purely optimizing to ensure that ads are on screen and viewed is disrupting the consumer experience.” Specifically, ad clutter and slowly loading content create an “oppressive experience” — and this at a time when it is harder to get consumers’ attention.
Microsoft has measured transient attention, defined as how long humans are “able to stay focused on a single topic” for fifteen years. Their research has concluded that the average human attention span has decreased from twelve to eight seconds over the fifteen years, coinciding with the rise of smartphones.
The true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.
— Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
In addition, consumers now have more choices. They can “… pay not to experience ads with services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Go, and many others.” They also “… have the opportunity to vote by installing ad blockers, and we’ve seen a massive rise in ad blockers … in 2016 approaching 500 million folks.”
As a result, “viewability alone ultimately doesn’t solve the problem. Capturing human attention is ultimately the key to success.”
How can marketers measure attention? Consider asking these questions that can increase the likelihood of digital success (and note the related attention-based metrics):
- Number of visitors and views
- Time spent on the ad, page, and site
- Interaction rates
- Viewability, based on an agreed-upon definition, across various platforms
- Purchase rates
The conclusion: looking only at viewability is not enough to measure success in digital. With “$7 billion worth of ads in 2017 [being] delivered to non-humans or fraudulent endpoints, and 20% of all ads [being] blocked by consumers [in Q4 of 2017],” brands must focus on delivering engaging user experiences to increase attention and, ultimately, this will lead to consumers not feeling the need to avoid advertising.
Source: Presented at the AD AVOIDANCExSCIENCE Conference April 19, 2018