Impressions have long been the foundation of digital media. It is the metric used to compare campaign scale and calculate pricing models. But unlike print, television, and radio, digital presents a range of issues that can make impression-based media misleading, inaccurate and costly. For campaigns to be successful moving forward, it is essential to move away from impression-based buying towards time-in-view.

Advertising pioneer and merchant John Wanamaker famously said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” In 2018, it is still difficult to identify which half is being wasted, but you can be sure that the huge volume of non-viewable ads are definitely not driving any value. Despite this, brands continue to pay for digital advertising that isn’t actually visible to consumers.

When IAS launched in Australia, I sat in on some awkward meetings with marketers trying to explain to their finance teams what a non-viewable ad was and why they should continue paying for it. In fact, some ad platforms only recently admitted that their view-through metrics were not measuring viewability and as such were giving attribution credit to ads that they knew were out of view.

Ad verification doesn’t reveal which ads are good, or even which to buy. It simply identifies which ads definitely do not have the potential for having an impact on consumers. Verification alone improves ad spends, which looks like this:

Verification technology can help to shift more of your advertising spend out of negative value by eliminating factors like unviewable, fraudulent, and unsafe impressions that erode value. But these impressions are still at zero which means they have the opportunity to drive impact.

But what brands really need is for the curve to look like this where your impression has the opportunity to have an impact:

Moving beyond beyond the impression into time-based metrics will allow marketers to push more impressions beyond zero and turn opportunity into positive value impact.

For that to occur, marketers must stop thinking about quantity and start thinking about quality.

How to identify quality

There are a number of ways to define quality. The best way to do so is by asking yourself questions such as: Are your ads contextually relevant? Is your ad being displayed by a trusted source? Is the copy well written?

What these questions and variables all have in common is that they drive longer exposure times.

Professionally created content engages audiences, leading to longer page dwell times which create longer exposure times for advertisers. It is not impressions that drive ad results, it is the time consumers are exposed to your brand that matters.

A recent study by IPA MediaLabs, revealed that advertising which met advertising industry standards experienced a 2 per cent lift, while ads that went above and beyond what the standard required were found to have longer exposure times – roughly 8 times the industry standard – resulting in a 16 per cent lift.

The study also showed that 15-30 seconds of exposure time generated three times the lift, and varied based on the creative. It is, therefore, important for marketers to ensure the creative gets the key message across in the time brands can afford to buy, and that they are buying enough time to get their key message across. Even sequencing is important because it means brands can capitalise on their ad buys, creating continuity and creative storytelling across channels and mediums.

What does this all add up to? The age of individual impressions is over. It’s time for savvy marketers to make the permanent shift towards cumulative exposure times. IAS has helped more than 65 brands calculate their exposure time to maximise ROI. What we have learned is that one size does not fit all. Brands should not focus on impressions, or solely on viewability rates, but on how long and how often they get their message in front of targeted audiences. The future of marketing is one where advertisers can identify the amount of exposure time they need to get the best results for their campaign.

Only then, can advertisers properly identify which 50 per cent of their ad-buy is being wasted.

About the author

James Diamond is the managing director of Integral Ad Science Australia and New Zealand. IAS is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.

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