Video Replacing TV as the Top of the Funnel

Seldom is there an industry read with which we disagree more than Ben Thompson’s recent writing on his blog Stratechery. In it, he says that “digital advertising is becoming a rather simple proposition: Facebook, Google, or don’t bother.” We don’t agree. While display may have commoditized, video has not, and TV advertisers moving over to online video are choosing to go broader, and to buy from ZINC>


Thompson talks about the advertising world of the past, in which newspapers, radio and television found their niches in the advertising spend, which has always been about 1.2% of our economic activity. Each existed at a different point in what used to be called “the funnel” from suspect to prospect to customer:

photo courtesy of Ben Thompson, Stratechery

photo courtesy of Ben Thompson, Stratechery

TV and radio were particularly effective at building awareness — making customers aware that your product existed — and also at building brand affinity — the subconscious preference for your product over a competing product at the moment of purchase. Newspapers, meanwhile, were useful when it came to “consideration”: helping consumers decide to buy the product they were now aware of (coupons were very useful here). Finally, brand managers spent a lot of time and money on their relationships with retailers to help pull consumers through the funnel to conversion, with the vague hope that said consumers would prove to be loyal.

It has always been difficult to manage the top of the funnel through digital advertising, because it is less measurable than performance advertising. That’s why RTB took off first, and brand advertising was so slow to be accepted. However, we now have some very good formats for brand awareness, and some very good cross-channel campaigns. Video has made a huge difference for brand advertisers, and “out stream” advertising has made another. Native provides a third.

Because of the size of their reach, Thompson argues, platforms like Facebook’s and Google’s, which can guide an advertiser through different parts of the funnel by means of their own offerings, will capture the advertising market once and for all: “Google is promising… awareness via properties like YouTube, consideration via DoubleClick, and conversion via AdSense.” And thus it makes no sense to go anywhere else, and every smaller platform, from LinkedIn, to Yelp, to Twitter, will lose.

While Thompson uses this thesis as a way to account for the recent stock market performance of LinkedIn and Twitter, it really doesn’t account for all the publishers in our premium network, who have leveraged inView and inArticle on their own sites to achieve better returns than the bigger platforms. They know that from a cost/benefit perspective, bigger does not always mean better in terms of investment return.

Ultimately, advertisers care about the return on their advertising dollar, and if they are trying to reach special audiences, they’ll spend far more trying to do that through Facebook and Google than they will through targeting niche sites where those visitors spend most of their time.





ZEDO is Known for Viewable Impressions

The conversation about viewable impressions is just beginning. We now know that we can reliably serve ads, because we have been doing that ourselves since 1999. But more and more, advertisers want to know that their ads are seen, rather than just served.

More often than not, you hear ordinary people, the ones advertisers are trying to reach, say “I don’t even see the ads when I go to a site. I just scroll past them.” This becomes increasingly true as mobile devices become the primary ways by which people read. The classic banner ads produce disappointing returns.

Our customers, often major publishers, began to ask us more and more often for ways they could prove the ads on their sites were actually seen, especially since the are paying by impression. And the inability to prove that ads are being seen has dragged down the CPM, and this the revenue, for publishers.

About six months ago, we decided to come up with a solution for them called “InView Formats.” These ads are designed to display in such a way that the user has to see them. These ad formats perform beyond our wildest expectations– it consistently delivers 99% viewable impressions. They are beginning to excite the market.

We are not just measuring what is viewable and what is but we are innovating formats and placements that ensure that Internet ads are 100% viewable or viewed by users.

How do we prove our success? We partner with comScore, whose AdXPose product measures constantly. And as the advertising industry moves toward buying only viewable impressions, and the dollars spent move this way – we have seen RFPs that say they only want to buy viewable impressions, we have a core technology product that creates only viewable impressions. This is ahead of the market, it is exciting and it makes Internet advertising better for the publishers and the advertisers.

ComScore is recognized as the most reliable measurement tool in the industry; in fact, many complain that it is too conservative in its measurements. But with 99% viewable impressions, we can’t complain.

We are now testing even more innovations some of which include video, to see if we get as good viewable impression results. We’re all over viewable impressions, so we will let you know here, in the blog! It’s a very exciting time at ZEDO. If you need viewable impressions as an advertiser or a publisher – call us. We have the technology.

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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.