Web Ads Are the New Bricks in the Mailbag
I’ve long viewed display ads with a heavy degree of skepticism. Am I so biased by print’s tangibility that my disdain for online advertising clouds my judgment? I’m not sure, but knowing that I’ve rarely received any feedback on the digital ads our company has run has always made me wonder what’s really going on.
And that’s the black hole of online ads, isn’t it? You write a check and tally up the impression count to awareness building within the right target markets. But are those numbers real?
My skepticism was validated recently by an article by Suzanne Vranica in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Case of the Invisible Web Ads.” The title got me excited, too!
Vranica reports that “54 percent of online display ads shown in ‘thousands’ of campaigns measured by comScore Inc. between May of 2012 and February of this year weren’t seen by anyone.” To qualify as an impression, at least 50 percent of an ad had to be visible for at least one second. Three factors may be contributing to this “invisibility,” and all three have real-world, offline precedents. They are 1) technical glitches, 2) user habits, and 3) fraud.
In our world of direct mail, a technical glitch might be a pressman who pulls a piece out of the delivery as a QC check without scanning it so it can be replaced later. But in that case, the mail owner doesn’t pay for the postage or the print. Given the ephemeral nature of online, and the poor verification methods supporting the industry, marketers don’t have the recourse or even the awareness of the actuality of the delivery to expect recompense. User habits—in the direct mail world—might be the recipient who doesn’t like direct mail and simply recycles the contents of their mail box without even a glimpse of what’s inside. In this instance, online and offline both suffer, but that’s life: wrong channel, part of the game, move on.