Online media is often touted as being a completely accountable medium, however I would disagree, online is certainly more accountable than above the line, and the availability of metrics allows marketers and their agencies access to a bevy of data that they previously only dreamed of. However a major issue for me personally (and I would hope others also) is that a lot of these metrics designed to bring about clarity only really serve to cloud the waters further.
Let’s look at some common metrics and the associated issue that I personally see.
Impressions – Impressions are deceptive because if your ad serves below the fold then your ad may in fact never have met eyeballs, yet it counts the same as an ad that is front and centre. (This extend through to some of the rich media engagement metrics which I will look at a bit later)
Clicks – Clicks are deceptive in that when a client pays for a click they assume they are paying for traffic to their sites, however I have seen drop offs of in excess of 50% of clicks not landing on the assigned landing page. This means that although a user clicked on a banner they closed the browser that opened before it had time to load the landing page.
Unique Browsers/Users – Here is a term that is much hated by many in the industry. It is entirely inaccurate, but with that said no more so than any of the metrics applied to above the line media. The primary arguments here are around cookie deletion and users who browse on multiple computers. These combined factors mean that the unique reach metric is actually a rather soft one.
And moving on to some of the engagement metrics that rich media is reporting we see similar issues to those listed above.
Rich media time on screen – This is that same as an impression, however the name is deceptive because it is counting the time on page, not on screen. You could spend 20 minutes on the top half of a screen while an ad you can’t see is counting this as “on screen” time.
Finding a solution to these issues isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to come anytime soon. For one thing I think if we found a way to only cookie users to whom the ad actually displayed on screen it would face serious opposition from publishers as it would drastically reduce their available inventory.
I know Ben Shepherd talks about the issues surrounding the streamlining of online measurement and it’s relationship with above the line measurement frequently over at Talking Digital but what are your thoughts on this? Has anyone heard of a technology that allows for a cookie to drop only when an ad is visible to a user?