Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What the IAB Forgot

On December 8th of this year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a report called the Audience Reach Measurement Guidelines, Version 1.0. It was 18 months in the making.

You can download it here.

The report starts out promising enough. After all, the participants in this project, designed to determine how best to measure audience reach related to Internet-based content or advertising, were impressive.

Of course, what I was most intrigued with from the report was that the IAB was going to finally define what time-spent meant in regards to online advertising.

I went through all 35 pages with a fine-tooth comb. The IAB did define time-spent. Here is their definition. “Time Spent – The amount of elapsed time from the initiation of a visit to the last audience activity associated with that visit. Time spent can be reported on the basis of cookied browsers, registration or panel participation, but in concept should represent the activity of a single cookied browser or user for a single access session to the web-site or property.”

So far, so good. But for the rest of the report, the IAB focused on page views. Not one mention of advertising. Much less video advertising. The IAB’s definition of time-spent, is fine. Superb, in fact. But their definition would work equally well for a viewer-initiated commercial as it would for a website. In a viewer-initiated commercial, the viewer opts-in to watch the commercial and then opts-out when the commercial looses relevance and/or interest.

All of this is measurable. In other words, an advertiser will know “the amount of elapsed time from the initiation of a visit to their commercial to the last audience activity associated with that visit to the commercial.”

Valuable information?

I’d argue yes.

After all, once advertisers know this, will they not want to pay accordingly? If an advertiser knows that the average, elapsed viewing time for their :60 spot was five seconds from initiation of a visit to the last audience activity associated with that visit, do you think they’re going to want to pay full-fare for the :55 that were not watched?

Forget that question. The more important question is, should they?

After all, fifty-five seconds that the advertiser paid good money to have produced were determined to be not relevant to an interested viewer that opted-in to watch. An interested viewer, mind you. Someone who took time out of his or her busy day to opt-in in the first place.

In other words, a potential sale.

Who’s to blame? Media? No. Once viewers opt-in to watch a commercial, accountability transfers from those that delivered the message to those that created the message, i.e. the creative agency.

So, why doesn’t the IAB factor video view time of commercials into their Audience Reach Measurement Guidelines? Beats the hell out of me.

Perhaps because the IAB, like most authoritative sources on the subject, incorrectly perceive this to be a media issue only, not a creative issue. It’s media data, after all. What does that have to do with creative?

Well, everything.

The beauty of the digital platform is that as advertisers lose control to viewers, losing the ability to “force” viewers to watch a commercial, they gain control over their agencies – both media and creative.

Because by giving viewers the freedom to do as they please, advertisers gain exact knowledge as to what viewers are doing.

And, if advertisers don’t start holding the appropriate parties accountable, creative agencies for involvement in the message and media agencies for exposure to the message, then these same advertisers are missing the big opportunity that digital present.

We have said in the past that the only way for advertisers to regain control is to give the viewer complete control. Because only by giving the viewer control do advertisers gain the knowledge they need to be able to hold their agencies accountable.

Advertisers have always said that accountability is on the very top of their wish list.

Unfortunately, the way it looks, if they wait for the IAB to give it to them, they might never get it.

Pity.

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