Internet Ads Can (and Will) be As Effective as TV

Sometimes it is lonely to be the CEO of the biggest independent advertising technology partner for publishers. The long view: my belief in standing behind the high quality publishers to make Internet advertising work at least as well as the best TV advertising – is a position not often shared. Yet I believe that we can make Internet advertising work brilliantly for high quality product launches and brand building. We won’t be stuck with text based CPC ads. We will show that the best sites can run fantastic graphical and video ads that sell great products.

I’ve been saying for months that the distinction between above and below the fold should go away, and I finally have company for my perspective. Good company: Comscore, Inc.

A week ago I attended an event in New York City at which Comscore unveiled its new Validated GRP(TM) tool that rates the effectiveness of digital ads. Validated GRP takes the rating standards advertisers apply to TV advertising (Gross Rating Points) and establishes a similar metric that will apply to digital advertising. For advertisers, this is a metric to judge online campaign effectiveness–to make an apples to apples comparison between the effectiveness of TV and the effectiveness of online display and video ads.

In the development of its Validated GRP tool, Comscore conducted a  major study on the quality of campaign delivery  that allowed it to investigate discrepancies between expectations and reality when it comes to ad delivery. The full study, the results of which will be released in March, included twelve major brands with household names like Ford, Sprint, Kimberly Clark, and Kellogg’s.

To conduct the study, Comscore used the AdXPose technology it acquired earlier last year. The AdXPose team tipped us off in advance because we were already partnered with them. We got a sneak preview of the study’s highlights, which we are now free to share here.

In December 2011, Comscore measured 2,975 placements on 380,898 site domains — totaling over 1.7 million impressions, all delivered in iframes.

The conclusion? Something we, as an ad server and a advertising technology partner for publishers, have already observed: many ads are served, but not seen. That’s because web pages are no longer mostly short pages with static user experiences; they’re long pages with dynamic usage. Many use the increasingly popular “infinite scroll”. By the time an ad at the top of the page is served, the reader may have already scrolled by. Yet many ads further down may be very visible to the user. In Comscore’s own words:

“It’s not just an ‘above the fold versus below the fold’ issue. Sometimes people scroll down quickly to get to the content they want, and miss home page ads. In those cases, the action might be below the fold. Compelling ads can work in both places – but only if they’re visible.” Comscore found that 24% of ads above the fold were not visible.

While this is not great news for the advertisers who paid for those campaigns, It is great to see Comscore measure this for advertisers. And it’s why we developed the InView slider formats. Web pages, like the Huffington Post and Daily Mail are getting longer. And they are increasingly optimized for tablets where users are quick to scroll and therefore quick to skip past the top of the page to get to the content they want to read.

Comscore’s findings become very important, especially as online advertising moves from simple banner display ads to on-page video. And I believe it will move to great video ads for cars, cosmetics and movies etc right on the page. Right now, we’re selling the InView Slider ad unit with great confidence that it works for advertisers wherever you place it. It only appears if the reader is going to see it. The InView slider gives publishers a way to boost revenue, and gives advertisers a great way to guarantee to catch scrolling readers.

We’re also launching an in page video ad that will appear when the viewer is guaranteed to see it.

The InView slider has been quickly adopted by publishers since the summer because all the revenue for the publisher is additional and yet there’s no additional work involved.

We look forward to Comscore publicly presenting the full results of its study in March, and of course we are proud to be their partner in making advertising on the web as good as the best advertising on national TV.