Digital Display Advertising Tips

5 Tactics To Get Your Digital Display Advertising Seen

By John Butler
In June 25, 2013

“If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

This bit of philosophical shenanigans is indirectly attributed to the 18th century philosopher George Berkeley. He didn’t actually say this, but in his A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge he is credited with originating this contemplation on the essence of existence. The primary question raised in this purely theoretical exercise is whether being observed constitutes existence.

On a distinctly other hand, marketing is best described as the art of being observed. It’s kind of the whole, entire point. Whether you’re talking about broadcast, print, outdoor, social media, content marketing, SEO, blogs, or digital display — the point is to get noticed, right? More than that, the purpose of any marketing communications is to generate increased awareness and perception of your brand — but at a basic level, the first step is to be seen.

However, according to a recent study conducted by comScore, 54% of digital display advertising was not seen by anyone. To put this in perspective, 40% of all online ad spending ($14 billion) goes into display advertising, so potentially $7.5 billion dollars went to digital publishers for not displaying display advertising. In terms of Gross Domestic Product then, Unseen Display Advertising would rank as the 137th largest economy in the world. As of this posting, however, I do not believe their soccer team has yet qualified for the World Cup.

According to comScore, this was due to a combination of “technical glitches, user habits and fraud.” Here are details:

  • Technical “glitches”: Ads displayed on unopened part of browser screen; below the fold; loaded so slowly as to miss the screen entirely.
  • User habits: non-scrolling; switching too quickly between screens, avoiding load screens.
  • Fraud: False traffic indicators from malware; hidden web windows which block views.

Regardless of the cause, marketers are being charged for digital display advertising which never reaches their audiences. This is a big deal, doesn’t everyone think? And I am kind of curious to know why more is not being made of this: the fastest-growing marketing media segment is essentially wasting more than half of the money being spent on it. And (this may be the worst part) comScore’s valuation of an impression is “when at least 50% of the ad is visible for at least a second.” To say that this is a low bar for efficacy seems to cast a shadow on low bars, generally speaking.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, among other industry leaders, are scrambling to develop a uniform way of measuring “viewability” that can be used as a benchmark and applied to publisher proof-of-performance metrics. Let’s forget that this horse has been out of the barn for so long, let’s just be happy that we’re thinking about luring him back in, they seem to be saying.

However, until that metric is put in place, here are some common-sense ways to ensure that your display advertising gets seen, noticed and, hopefully, acted upon:

  1. Retargeting: Building frequency against your target audience is always beneficial and retargeting allows you to engage them multiple times in relevant content.
  2. Rich media units/video content: Engagement rates (and the less quantifiable “notice-ability”) increase dramatically with expandable units and video—plus it provides more real estate to tell your brand selling story.
  3. Direct-response messaging: Digital display is best deployed with very specific, compelling and relevant offers and calls-to-action—to rely on branding messages to engage your audience is a very slow and inefficient build.
  4. Negotiated premium placement: Work closely with publisher and your digital ad networks to devise a positioning strategy that eliminates below-the-fold units entirely. If logistically feasible, buying direct from publisher allows for a more accountable relationship with the vendor on the front- and back-ends.
  5. Third-Party ad servers: Vendors that can provide a higher level of monitoring as well as reporting on impressions and interaction ad cost to the buy, but the value they add to your accountability are more than worth it.

Obviously, these tactical directions will cost more — but digital display advertising CPMs are the lowest among the major media for a reason. Achieving an effective balance of value-added digital display advertising units and placements will mitigate some of the issues that the industry is currently dealing with. At least until some better accountability metrics are put in place.

How confident are you that your digital display advertising is running as you (or your agency) has planned it?

John Butler

I am a lifelong Clevelander and have spent nearly 30 years in the marketing communications industry. It is my belief that you need to have a diverse range of interests in order to bring perspective to a client’s marketing needs. So my blogs will generally be about social media, dogs, music, media planning, historical fiction, content marketing, professional sports, brand positioning, restaurants I like, quantitative research analytics, science fiction movies, target audience segmentation, running/cycling or the impact of digital media on advertising messaging. You get the idea.