Sep 20 2012
Basis Team

What Do You Mean You Don’t See My Ad?


Remember the good old days? When you used to treat yourself every day by curling up with your local newspaper or weekly magazine in your favorite chair? You’d turn the pages slowly, and even clip out a few ads or articles to post on the fridge or send to Mom.

This was the publisher-advertiser relationship at its best – our industry hummed along quite nicely when advertising was seen by the target audience and it caused them to act. At least one thing that will never change is that we’ll always strive for impact and rejoice when it occurs.

Now imagine a nightmare: What if print advertisers only paid newspapers for the ads that were seen by their intended target?  As in, “Hey, our ad on page 5, Section B wasn’t seen by 34.5% of the audience, so we’re only sending you a check for part of the contract.”

Not possible? The stuff of a futuristic Sci-Fi world where devices are implanted in our eyes and monitored by unseen beings?

I hate to break it to you but – brace yourself – something like this is coming soon to the ever-disruptive Internet near you.

As we speak, technology, systems and business practices – in fact, entire companies! – are forming around what have been coined “Viewable Impressions.” And while we can’t – yet – track user eyeballs, the ability to quantify consumers’ viewing behaviors will have an amazing impact on our industry, creating additional value around premium media and impossible headwinds for media that the average person will never even notice.

Once viewable impression (VI) metrics are exposed for ads, how can we ask advertisers to pay for media that’s not seen by our targets – or is only seen by machines? It’s unthinkable.

Machines don’t vote and they certainly don’t buy things. When the technology behind capturing these eyeballs becomes more and more efficient and advertisers start demanding to see their ads’ VIs (and they will), we’ll see this new metric take off as fast as “cost per click” did.

At Centro, we actually believe this is great news for the industry – and it’s especially great for premium publishers. Yes, it will be disruptive, but it contributes directly to Centro’s overriding vision to make digital advertising beautiful. Why? Because beauty (aka ‘quality’) drives value, and viewable impressions help us reach this goal.

It doesn’t take much effort to calculate that 30% to 50% of the multi-billion dollar business of digital advertising will be discounted fast. Publishers will be under pressure to “design for the view” which means no more ad placements at the bottom of the page in no-man’s land, where it sits far apart from quality content.

We also predict that these new realities will force publishers to consider some complex choices:

One, they’ll have to either incorporate visible impression technology or build their own. Though that last part sounds a bit daunting, it will give publishers the power to measure and revalue their own inventory.

As RFP’s asking for “viewable impressions only” become standard, publishers will need to know how to accurately forecast against these requests. In order to do so, it’s imperative to begin measuring what percentage of a publisher’s current inventory is viewable.  From there, they can begin to accurately forecast for these requests.

Two, publishers can take a long term approach and begin to redesign their sites for the future, working towards a new standard of viewable impression transparency in 2013 and beyond.

The only thing publishers cannot afford to do is nothing.

At Centro, we recognize that the movement towards viewable impressions is coming – and it may be coming faster than any of us are expecting. But this new metric brings with it new promise. It creates opportunities for sites to proactively create a better experience for their advertisers and drive performance through ad placement.

It also creates an Internet where there is a clear division between premium and non-premium inventory – also a good thing for publishers.

We’ve got some early data on visible impressions and would love to talk more about it with you – we’re dedicated to helping our trusted partners plan for the future.