Online ads need to be about the impression left, not impressions received

Online advertising models are changing. Atomic 212 business director, Ashleigh Hall, explains in this post how to make your brand message worth watching.

We’ve all been in the same situation watching content online and seeing the same pre-roll ad over and over, even across several months.

It’s almost as if publishers have promised to deliver a certain number of impressions, so when it gets to monthly crunch time, they just hammer us with the same repetitive message.

From a publisher point of view, I get it –X impressions have been promised, and it is not their responsibility to issue engaging and bespoke creative. It really comes as no surprise, and it makes sense in the short term – publishers have to deliver on the promises they make.

But it’s a terrible idea in the long term.

People understand that advertising is necessary, it pays for the great content they enjoy, and 13 to 15 minutes of advertising per hour – as per the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice – isn’t that intrusive.

But you can’t just hammer people with the same content time and time again and expect the audience to continue to be engaged or intrigued to take action.

Think about it in terms of ‘Desert Island Discs’. The long-running radio program asks people to pick the eight songs they would choose to be able to listen to if stranded on a desert island. It’s a great exercise in selecting eight songs you love, but the reality of it is that you’d get sick of those eight songs pretty quickly.

So how do you think consumers are going to react when you force the same ad – a form of content they tolerate, rather than love – on them over and over?

It’s more than just an apocryphal problem as well.

Last year, the Edentify IPTV in Australia survey found that the primary complaint regarding Australian commercial TV networks’ catch-up services – that there are too many ads – had fallen compared with 2014.

Yet the second-most common complaint, ‘They play the same ads all the time’, was a rising issue for Plus7 and TenPlay, while it had held steady for 9Jumpin.

And that’s for a service which, though relatively new, has the branding and content consumers have grown accustomed to on commercial TV – where advertising has always been the funding model.

But what about the internet? Being such a new platform, plenty of people remember the ‘old days’ when the World Wide Web was ad-free.

Furthermore, there is no way of ensuring that a consumer only gets 13 to 15 minutes of ads per hour, with some publishers rolling a 15 to 30-second ad after every 30 to 60-second piece of video content they publish.

So to suddenly not only have ads, but the same ads pop up every time you open a web page might get the required impressions, but ultimately it harms the product.

Because who wants to spend their money with that company that annoys the hell out of them when they’re having an idle browse on the bus home – or worse, pops up and blares at them while they’re at work?

In fact, according to research by Facebook: “when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80% react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser”.

Yep, you’re not only harming the product, you’re doing Mark Zuckerberg and Co., a disservice as well!

The most frustrating aspect of this ‘just get the eyeballs’ attitude is that it’s coming from a sector where there is so much scope for advertising via clever, useful, creative content that people want to engage with.

While there are legitimate concerns about the breakdown of barriers between editorial and sales in publishing – indeed, many digital publishers have the two division sitting side-by-side, and editorial are all too aware that their work can’t tread on even potential advertisers’ toes – this has led to the rise of some fantastic native campaigns.

Take, for example, Netflix’s Paid Post with the New York Times, ‘Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work’.

Sure, it was created to get people to tune in to season two of the Netflix original series ‘Orange is the New Black’, but it was a brilliant piece of content, with fascinating insights, presented in an original, engaging fashion.

As a result it generated massive traffic for nytimes.com, with director of corporate communications Linda Zebian telling the Native Advertising Institute, “we can loosely suggest that the Netflix Paid Post was in the top 1.47% of articles published during [2014].

That’s just one example from the ever-growing pool of quality native. If it’s strong content, consumers will engage, regardless of whether it was created to sell subscription packages.

Unfortunately there continues to be an old-world mindset to the brave new world of online.

Sure, you’ll get your numbers if you just repeat the same ad on all your pre-roll, but ultimately the product will suffer, because while you’ll get your impressions, you’ll also be leaving a seriously bad impression on consumers.

Ashleigh Hall is a business director at Atomic 212


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