Let’s Raise Our Standards Online: Stop Faking ROI & Start Acting More Like TV

TV advertising is one of the most effective means of increasing brand awareness; and, despite the heightened use of ad-skipping devices, marketers continue to allocate ad dollars in massive amounts to television. But, as digital starts to deliver similar products, there has been a debate raging about measurement.

Nearly One-Third Of Online Display Ads Aren’t Seen

So far, this debate has been about things like Gross Rating Points vs. Impressions; but, there is a more fundamental issue that we have to fix before digital can be measured accurately and effectively for advertisers.

A recent comScore study of a dozen major brands (including Allstate, Ford and Kellogg’s) argues that 31% of online ads actually go unseen by consumers; so, the “ad served” or impression metric that the online industry stands by simply isn’t up to par when compared to TV standards.ML_comScore 6.3 Online advertisers respond to these criticisms by saying that no one watches TV commercials – consumers skip them with DVRs; or, they could easily be in the kitchen; or they could be pre-occupied while ads are shown. There was even a study done in the 1980s in Los Angeles which showed that water usage spiked in the city every time there was a commercial break on TV (lots of people flushing toilets).

Digital Can Be Better & It Should Be

This misses the point. First of all, digital advertising can, is, and will be a vastly superior form of advertising than TV because you can buy audiences directly rather than using programming as a proxy.

Additionally, digital ads can and are measured at the individual level, which is very hard to do with TV advertising. Also, since digital advertising enables marketers to measure individuals, marketers can actually see if these people buy products.

Today, retailers are starting to combine online data with offline purchases in a variety of ways. None of this is even conceivable with traditional advertising.

There is no doubt that digital advertising is the way of the future. Indeed, TV will inevitably end up being delivered digitally and all of the features of digital advertising will become available to TV advertisers.

So, when there’s an issue like 31% of ads are going unseen, we can’t be like ostriches sticking our head in the digital sand, we’ve got to fix it.

Stop Being Defensive

So, what should we do? We should stop being defensive and fix the problem. At Magnetic, we use a variety of tools – some homegrown and some offered by third parties – to ensure that every ad we deliver is seen by a really relevant person. We’ll never be absolutely perfect; but, we can get to the point where 90% of ads are delivered to the right (real) person.

The cost of not fixing these problems is stagnation and the stalling of growth in digital advertising and real-time-bidding, specifically.The most compelling argument is that it is completely inevitable that the digital world will replace the old television world.

So, let’s not nit-pick about which channel is better and instead, work toward ensuring that ads are actually shown to and seen by the audiences that matter most.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Display Advertising: Programmatic Media Buying | Retargeting & Remarketing


About The Author: is chief executive officer at search retargeting leader Magnetic charged with driving overall company expansion and building out Magnetic’s search retargeting infrastructure.

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  • Alex Brown

    James, I attribute the 31% unseen digital ads to the same “tune out” behavior that TV viewers have developed over the years, which makes lead management through marketing automation an important component to building a successful digital campaign. GRPs and impressions don’t tell the whole story. Reading a prospect’s digital behavior is the way to go now, as outbound marketing gives way to inbound marketing. A system like this http://bit.ly/1831Wxa, for example, integrated with search retargeting capabilities can provide marketers with measurable ROI.


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