Is the impression—the longtime currency of online advertising—on its way out?
It could be. Three major advertising/media trade organizations, IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) and the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies), have announced a new initiative aimed at simplifying online ad measurement and metrics. The groups have hired management consulting firm Bain & Company and the strategic advisory firm MediaLink to help with the effort. And everything is on the table, including possibly ditching the impression as a currency.
The new initiative, Making Measurement Make Sense—announced at the IAB’s Annual Meeting in La Quinta, Calif.—won’t necessarily have a lot of teeth. But the three groups are hoping their efforts carry enough influence to enact serious change in the online ad industry, which continues to struggle to pull in its fair share of brand advertising, according to many prominent executives.
What the effort will entail is still unclear. During a press briefing, leaders from each of the three groups spoke in vague but grandiose terms.
According to Sherrill Mane, the IAB’s svp of industry services, the goal of the initiative is “to change everything we do when we transact digital media." Why? “To make it more brand hospitable.”
The group acknowledged that digital media is still not hospitable enough to brands. Digital buyers are faced with half a dozen sources when planning campaigns, including Nielsen, comScore, Quantcast and Compete. Different sites and ad networks sell using varied definitions of ad impressions. Video is even more muddled and disorganized.
“The supply chain is messy and ineffective,” said Mane.
Yet these industry groups won’t have a lot of authority, other than issuing guidelines or a whitepaper that they hope will guide brands, vendors and ad buyers. But Mane and her counterparts said that this issue has major momentum, particularly the support of the industry’s leaders.
“This is about getting agencies, publishers [on board] with what is best for the industry,” said Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA, who predicted the group would produce some sort of results in six to eight months. “This is a standard setting exercise.”
Added 4A's evp Mike Donahue: ”This is not about being reflective. This is about being actionable.”
As we’ve written on our blogs before, new technologies are profoundly improving display advertising. In the last few years, there’s been a technological Big Bang, creating new ways to buy display ads across the web: exchanges involving real time bidding, demand side platforms, improved ad networks and more.
These technologies are enabling marketers to seize the digital moment and run far more effective campaigns, but just as the universe changed dramatically following the Big Bang, the digital buying marketplace has changed forever, requiring some new “laws.”
The three laws of display advertising physics
1. The Theory of Relativity: What’s better, a demand side platform, or an ad network? It depends
Our clients often ask us if they should use our DSP (Invite Media), or our network (the Google Display Network), especially as the distinction between the two platforms blurs. We often answer with an analogy from the world of stock investing (it’s not perfect, but it’s a first step). The first question is whether to buy and sell yourself, or engage someone else to manage your portfolio:
- The online broker model: For buyers looking to manage the details of their ad buying and use their own technology and data, a DSP like Invite Media is often the best option. This is similar to an online broker that lets you log in and closely manage your investments (and, as with Invite Media, get access to special trading features, market intelligence and expert advice).
Both platforms enable access to huge pools of ad space, deliver the same types of ad formats and facilitate similar ways of targeting ads. Again, it’s like buying stocks—whether you choose an online broker or stockbroker, you can select from thousands of types of stocks, markets and investment products.
- The stockbroker model: Some marketers have a desired campaign result (such as a target reach for a new car campaign, or a number of conversions for a sporting tickets campaign). They want to outsource the details and have a customized, transparent media solution designed for their campaign. The Google Display Network most often fits this bill—it’s like having a stock broker manage your portfolio to meet your investment goals.
2. Fusion Theory: Why contextual and audience buying release more energy when combined
Some have suggested that audience buying (delivering ads based on users’ interests) and contextual advertising (targeting ads to content) is an either/or proposition. However, we believe it’s the combination of the two that is most powerful.
- With effective contextual advertising, you can get the maximum reach while delivering your message in highly relevant locations—like news articles related to your products—in the precise moment a person indicates interest. Contextual advertising is vital to building brand awareness and reaching new prospects at relevant moments.
Marketers combining these types of buying can reach a broad range of people, then hone their messages to particularly good prospects to maximize the impact of their campaigns. We’ve seen that this approach drives better campaign performance; third party studies back it up.
- Audience buying—such as remarketing—enables marketers to reach people who have already shown an interest in a particular topic or brand. This is especially effective for re-engaging consumers.
3. The Law of Perpetual Motion: Why marketers should embrace a rapidly moving industry
Display advertising is in a state of constant motion, caused by the acceleration of online media consumption and the explosion in new technologies.
- Advances in computer science are driving changes in advertising. To illustrate: creativity has always been at the heart of good display advertising. But look at what’s become widely used by marketers in just the last few years—rich media technology, new mobile and video formats and dynamic creative technology that can take a creative ad concept and automatically bring it to life over millions of websites.
- The industry is literally moving faster as media buyers start to increase their use of real-time bidding (RTB) technology, which allows them to evaluate and bid on ad space on an impression-by-impression basis. We recently undertook an industry study with Digiday, surveying more than 300 digital media buyers, agencies and intermediaries about their thoughts on RTB in the year ahead. Some revealing findings:We’re seeing this rapid growth and change first-hand. Since we acquired Invite Media in June 2010, the number of advertisers on the platform has doubled; agency spend has grown by almost 300%. And spending on display ads on the Google Display Network is growing more than 100% annually in a large number of countries. Publishers are benefiting from these changes as well (for example, a recent study found that publishers who participated in the DoubleClick Ad Exchange see an average 188% revenue lift when the exchange wins the auction).
- 88% of buyers plan to buy via RTB in 2011, up from 75% last year.
- 47% of media buyers say that the benefits or RTB will increase their overall digital advertising budget this year (16% said it would not, 37% were unsure).
- Spending on RTB is quickly moving out of the "test budget" range: 79% of buyers estimate that more than 10% of their digital display budgets will go to RTB in 2011. 33% estimate that 50% or more of their digital display budget will go to RTB. And 7% estimate 90-100% of their digital display budget will go to RTB.
- 29% of media intermediaries (such as DSPs, ad networks, and exchanges) anticipate their volume of real-time bidding will increase by 100% or more versus last year. 19% believe it will go up by at least 200%.
- More formats are moving to RTB: 34% of buyers say they are extremely or very likely to purchase rich media ads via RTB this year, 32% are extremely or very likely to purchase dynamic creative ads via RTB, 20% are extremely or very likely to purchase mobile display ads via RTB, 18% are extremely or very likely to purchase in-stream video via RTB and 14% are extremely or very likely to purchase mobile rich media via RTB.
- Nearly half (48%) of publishers surveyed say they plan to increase the amount of inventory they will make available via RTB. 28% are still deciding. Only 24% said they were not planning to increase RTB inventory.
In this new era, the most effective campaigns will be driven by marketers who rethink how they connect with people in this rapidly moving industry. Whether it means partnering with technology providers to buy better, or exploring the infinite possibilities of today’s creative units, embracing new media and technology provides a key way for marketers to differentiate and grow their businesses in a new universe.
Unlike the Big Bang, the expansion in our industry is not chaotic or random. We’re moving towards a single platform that seamlessly incorporates the best technologies for planning, buying, serving, creating and measuring display ads; one that will enable marketers to effectively reach and engage people across desktops, tablets, videos, mobile devices and TVs.
Posted by Neal Mohan, Vice President of Product Management
Online ad firm Vibrant was able to build a healthy ad business by delivering contextually relevant text ads when users mouse over specific words within news articles and other content on the Web. Now, the company wants to bring the same contextual relevance to display ads.
Vibrant has rolled out VIA Dynamic, a display ad product that takes into account the subject matter of a particular Web page when deciding which creative placement to serve at a given moment. According to Vibrant, VIA Dynamic can instantly assess a Web page’s content using a combination of semantic analysis, word frequency, demographic information and other factors—and it can then serve whatever creative placement is deemed most appropriate.
Ads on Facebook cost more but got fewer click-throughs in 2010 compared to 2009, and performed about half as well as traditional banner ads, according to a new survey.
A study conducted by Webtrends looked at more than 11,000 campaigns on Facebook to try to establish benchmarks for brands looking to advertise on the platform.
According to Webtrends, the average click-through rate (CTR) for Facebook ads in 2009 was 0.063% and 0.051% in 2010 — half as much as industry standard of .1%. The cost per click (CPC) was also $0.27 and $0.49 for those periods, respectively.
Webtrends also detailed the cost-per-thousand (CPM) and cost per fan (CPF):
According to the study, not all visitors to Facebook interact with ads the same way. “The older we get, the more we click,” the survey notes, adding that there’s a falloff, however, after age 65. Women and men click at pretty much the same rate.
Similarly, there are few geographic variations, except for Hawaii, whose residents click through at almost half the average and North Dakota and Wyoming, whose residents click at double and triple the average rate.
Not surprisingly, users are also more apt to click on an ad for a category they consider fun, like media and entertainment or blogs, categories that trounce laggards like health care and software.
As the report notes, Facebook is projected to post $4 billion in advertising this year. Part of the appeal, aside from the network’s huge base of users, is the ability to get friends of targeted consumers to give their thumbs up. That apparently combats ad burnout. According to the study, ads targeting friends of fans last three times longer than standard ads because new fans keep coming on board, adding more friends and thus more potential ad targets.
The takeaway? Facebook ads may not get a lot of click-throughs, but for the moment, friends’ recommendations make them last longer.
Google appears to be testing display ads in Gmail. I discovered the following image ad in my own Gmail account this morning, and Google has since confirmed a test.
Image ads have made their way into paid search on Google.com and various other properties on Google. But this was really jarring for me to encounter. It’s the only such ad I saw (next to an email from a clothing retailer in my inbox) after purposely looking for others.
I’m sure it’s a test to see how users react and what the response rates are. Gmail is formally a part of the “Google Display Network“:Your text, image, rich media, and video ads can appear across YouTube, Google properties such as Google Finance, Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, as well as over one million Web, video, gaming, and mobile display partners.
I’m not sure how long this test has been running; it’s the first time I’ve seen it and I use Gmail as my primary email address.
Postscript: A Google spokesperson provided the following comment:We’re always trying out new ad formats and placements in Gmail, and we recently started experimenting with image ads on messages with heavy image content.
Borrell Associates is forecasting a moderate increase in overall ad spending for 2011, but continued strong growth for online advertising, including mobile. Overall, advertisers will increase their spending next year by less than 5% above this year's projected level, bringing U.S. ad spending totals to $238.6 billion.
We're expecting total online ad spending to grow almost 14%, from $45.6 billion, in 2010, to $51.9 billion, in 2011. The fastest-growing segments of online advertising are the local sector, anything targeted, and everything involving social media.
By next year, local online advertising should grow by almost 18%, from $13.7 billion, in 2010, to $16.1 billion, in 2011.The big driver will be targeted display (such as banner ads) advertising, which we expect to grow almost 60% in 2011, reaching $10.9 billion for national and local combined. While national advertisers will increase their use of targeted display by nearly 50%, local advertisers will outperform even that. Use of targeted display by advertisers local to the markets where their ads run will more than double, reaching more than $2.3 billion next year.
However, the Web's initial darling –run-of-site display– continues to lose luster. Sales of run-of-site display ads will continue to decrease, dropping nearly 14% from this year's level – from $9.5 billion to $8.2 billion for both local and national. This early online format has simply been overshadowed by newer, more productive ad formats, and competition has pushed display unit prices down. Most of the spending decease will come from national advertisers. Local run-of-site ads are forecast to decrease less than 3% next year.
The national paid search ad format will experience a double-digit spending decline next year, moving down 11.3%. This drop will be caused by lower pricing and churn, but will be mitigated by a local advertiser increase of more than 10%. (In general, local online advertiser trends tend to lag those of the larger national advertisers by about two years, and that is certainly the case for paid search.) Local spending decreases in paid search are sure to follow, perhaps as soon as 2012.
Email advertising will see moderately strong growth in 2011, up 9% to $16.0 billion for national and local. Growth in this format is almost all from national advertisers; only 3% is local. White paper marketing is a major contributor to its popularity – especially among B2B advertisers.
The streaming video format is expected to continue its dramatic growth, increasing more than 60% to $5.6 billion next year. More DIY and less expensive tools put this ad format within the budgets of even small advertisers. Because of this, two out of every five streaming video ad dollars will come from local advertisers next year. Streaming audio, on the other hand, looks to remain a footnote. Though it too will enjoy double-digit ad spending increases in 2011, streaming audio has yet to pass the $1 billion ad spending level.
Unlike legacy marketing, where promotions overshadows advertising, online advertising has historically gotten far more attention from marketers than online promotions. But changes are coming. Online promotions will top $24 billion next year, up 10% from this year's totals. Much of this increase will be due to the rising use of online couponing, forecast to grow almost 14%, to $9.1 billion, in 2011. Proximity advertising is also on the rise, up 11% next year. Mobile devices that can tell users when a particular merchant is in their immediate vicinity continue to sell briskly, and advertisers are expressing interest in this form of advertising.
Mobile marketing continues to grow, fueled by ubiquitous apps, user-friendly browsers and 3G/4G speeds. As smartphone ownership now comprises 25% of all cellphone ownership, mobile ad sales will enjoy growth of more than 20 cents of every online ad dollar spent next year.