Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In The Digital Age, Failure Will No Longer Be Lucrative

In the non-digital age, we knew that half of all the advertising that ran didn’t work.

In the non-digital age, agencies were paid well regardless how feeble or magnificent their efforts.

If an ad didn’t work, agencies blamed many things. Not surprisingly, the creative itself was seldom on the top of the list.

In the Digital Age, all this changes. Especially when it comes to video. If you haven’t yet read Josh Chasin’s piece in Tuesday’s Metrics Insider, do so now. Josh makes the interesting observation that video is a content-type that accrues duration. In other words, it has a definite start point and stop point, both of which will soon be completely in the control of the viewer.

If a viewer clicks-in to watch something, it’s probably because they are interested. How long they stay interested, can be measured as duration.

Are duration and engagement the same thing when it comes to video? That’s probably best left for another column. But what’s nice about the word “duration” is that it can be measured — someone starts watching and someone stops watching — without all the baggage that comes with the word “engagement”.

The headline of this piece is “Failure Will No Longer Be Lucrative”. When you read the word “failure,” did you immediately think sales?

The “Engagement Mapping” discussions that Microsoft is spearheading in conference rooms across the country seem to indicate that a “sale” is a component of many elements.

View duration is just one of those elements.

As video view duration can easily be separated out and measured, advertisers will soon be able to hold their agencies accountable for delivering more duration rather than less.

A sixty-second spot, for instance, offers the possibility of sixty seconds of viewer duration. How many of those sixty seconds did the viewer decide were interesting enough to actually hang around and watch? I can only assume that if the advertiser paid for sixty seconds to be created, they must want all sixty seconds watched. Otherwise, they would have made a twenty-four second spot. Or, a forty-one second spot.

Whose responsibility is it to get the viewer to stay and watch more, rather than less, once they click-in? Most would argue the creative agency.

And, if they get viewers to watch less rather than more of what they were paid to create, well, couldn’t that then be considered failure?

Once advertisers start monetizing view duration, that failure will no longer be lucrative for those agencies.

Some of you might be thinking that this will result in agencies creating shorter and shorter spots. And, you’re right. Many will.

But a handful of agencies, those confident in their ability, will see this for what it really is. An opportunity for their agency to be compensated based on how creative it is. And, even more importantly, an opportunity for a true creative renaissance to occur.

Ironically, supported by, of all things, the science of measurement.

We can now measure duration. Duration is created, not born. Agencies that know how to create it will be more desired than those who don’t.

Granted, many agencies will not be up to the task.

They made their fortune on mediocrity. And, since mediocrity could not be measured, they flourished.

In the Digital Age, there is no place for mediocrity. Or, one could argue, those agencies.

In the Digital Age, failure will no longer be lucrative.

Suddenly, the penny drops.

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