Ad Platforms Must Reassess Meaning of ‘Impression’

2014 12 11   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

A couple of recent articles have reminded me how poorly constructed the existing metrics for online-ad impressions are – and how Internet publishers and the online world need to step it up a notch. Right now it’s still the Wild West, where only the lucky survive long enough to talk about it.

News Sites Top List of Slowest-Loading Web Pages: Ads may not appear before users move on (Adweek)

Well, the headline pretty much says it all. It’s ironic. The very things driving site design and implementation (i.e., the pursuit of money and application of technology) are holding back the very companies trying to escape the limitations imposed on them by everything that actually works well.

What we see online is a mirror of what we’ve always experienced offline: Different formats of the same media have dramatically different consumer attention spans. For example, news/talk radio has many different kinds listeners tuned in for shorter periods of time, while Classic Rock likely has fewer unique listeners who stay tuned for much longer. Same thing on TV and, obviously, online.

More Than 56% Of Ad Impressions Are Not Seen, Google Says (MediaPost)

The rub here is the notion of what constitutes an impression. The fact that advertisers actually accept the most recently updated definition: 51 percent of pixels for one second, for their campaigns is absolutely beyond me. That measurement is arbitrary, and frankly absurd. The value proposition to advertisers is less than half the price, regardless of what’s being charged; it’s too much. The only winners here are the sellers and the sites collecting their commissions from their brokers/agents. And so operating in a win-lose scenario practically guarantees that it will devolve into a lose-lose situation. Something needs to change.

A smarter definition would be at least 85 percent of the pixels viewable for at least five seconds. And if the ad is a video, then auto-starts should be automatically excluded… that isn’t an impression, it’s robbery.

It may seem like splitting hairs, but when you begin to extrapolate the results curve on this kind of a change, the pendulum moves closer to the middle between the sites and the advertisers. Value and ROI are intertwined and, right now, the value proposition online for advertisers is nearly absent.