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This Could Change Everything

November 2, 2009

Have you ever had a meeting with a potential business partner that rocked your world?Something that called into question everything that you believed to be true? 

 I recently had one of those meetings and wanted to share it.

 I have spent a good bit of time over the last few years working in an industry capacity, trying to make the “business of doing business” in the digital space more efficient.  As Chair of the AAAA Interactive Marketing Committee and co-chair of “Project Reinvention” we have been working to identify the greatest areas of friction in the business and tackling the greatest areas of contention (revising the industry Terms & Conditions as an example).

 After 15 years in the digital media business I can safely say that our industry is overly complicated.  In order for us to truly scale our business it is critical that we make it easier to plan, buy and steward digital campaigns.

 We certainly don’t need any more Wall Street Journal articles onreal VU 1 “Invisible Ads” or trade publications exposing the dangers of ad networks, click fraud, below the fold placements, etc.  So, you can understand my dilemma after I met with RealVu last week.  Part of me wanted to forget that the meeting ever happened.  The other part of me thought that this little known Salt Lake City startup could change everything.

 It would appear that (among other things) RealVu has developed a technology that allows them to identify when an online ad is “within the viewable area” of a users screen, and for what duration.  So, for ads that are run on a particular website that require a user to scroll “below the fold”, their ad never gets requested until the user has scrolled to that part of the page.  Makes sense, right?  Pretty innocuous you say?

 On average, across all placements that they have tracked – fully 50% of online ads are never viewed because they are outside of the user’s viewable area.  Say what?pic 2 blog

 Now, keep in mind this is a combination of all properties.  Some long tail sites are poorly constructed and they may indeed have questionable motives, but this does include Top 100 properties as well.  The number of ads that we are paying for that go unseen floored me.

 In addition to making sure that an advertiser is only charged for an ad that is viewed by a user, they are able to see how long the ad is viewed before it leaves the viewable area (another tab is opened in the browser, user scrolls down the page, etc.). 

 It is not inconceivable that this kind of data will drive the industry towards an entirely new buying mechanic.  Only paying for the amount of time that an ad is viewed, and obviously not paying for ads that are not viewed at all.  This may very well translate into a decrease in efficiency (or an increase in CPM), but it will be a far more accurate representation of true ad delivery.  We are supposed to be the most measurable and accountable medium, right?

pic3 blog RealVu has reportedly signed a deal with to start working with them to provide their service to advertisers.  They also have been working with some of the leading industry bodies like the IAB and the Media Rating Council (MRC) to revisit some of the very foundations of our industry, like what qualifies as an ad impression.

 I have no doubt that this will not be the last time we hear about this company nor the last time we discuss the potential to revise the currency of Internet display advertising.  Might this be the catalyst the industry needs to galvanize around a new standard metric?  Engagement, iGRPs, Brand minutes, involvement score – take your pick.  The possibilities are as varied as they are exciting.

 At the end of the day, if this new potential standard makes the business of doing business easier and more transparent, I believe it will be a giant step forward for the industry.  It will set a new bar for accountability – one that will influence all communications channels, including the 800 lb. gorilla in your living room.

 Remember folks, you heard it here first.

 This could change everything.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2009 7:04 pm

    Agreed David. I think ad visibility is going to become a huge metric in 2010.

    If someone in online advertising don’t think ad metric is THE most important metric (on an impression level if not an aggregate level), they’ve lost their common senses through years of “optimizing” campaigns.

    Here are some other companies who deal with ad visibility, though none of them are an ad visibility pure play:


    Not allowing invisible ads to drive view through conversion scould cause a big shift in the ad network space. Atlas and Dart would do their clients a favor by introducing this into their reporting.

    The correlations between CTR/ConversionRates and ad visibility are very interesting. Ultimately ad visibility will be another data input into bidding algorithms for companies like Turn, AppNexus, Invite Media, MediaMath, etc. etc.

    MSNBC must have good ad visibility averages to be pushing this tool. Full adoption of this metric may shift dollars away from the long tail to content sites where users spend more time on the page.

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