STARTUP WEEKEND: Vibrant media: TV ads aren’t being seen

Sam Pattison is the head of UK sales for Vibrant Media. Here he blogs about one of the major problems in advertising which could be solved by an idea at Startup Weekend, a challenge to create a new business in just 54 hours which takes place at Google Campus from 12-14 July.

Sam Pattison

“The scale of the ad viewability problem for the digital industry is finally being recognised. Most online ads – 54 per cent from comScore’s most recent stats – are
served but never seen by a human being.

As more attention focuses on digital ad viewability, so businesses have been responding with innovations that offer marketers guarantees that they are only paying for digital ads that actually get seen, such as systems that place ads within digital content rather than around it, technology that only displays ads when consumers actively choose to experience them, and new verification services.

However, the viewability issue is not only relevant to digital ads: TV needs to address its own viewability problems.

Empirically, we know that a mass of consumers will simply get up and do something else during ad breaks. We can see the scale of the problem from the fact that during commercial breaks between popular TV shows such as Coronation Street, the national grid has to supply additional power for around 1.75 million kettles at the same time as UK TV consumers step away from their TV sets to make cups of tea. Interestingly, the more compelling the TV content – whether sport, entertainment or drama – the more likely consumers will seek a moment’s relief away from their TV through tea.

More recent ad evasion techniques are enabled by new technologies that enable consumers to skip ads: over four million homes have Sky+HD and one million have Virgin’s Tivo.

Then there’s the fact that consumers are increasingly distracted by their “second screens” – mobiles, tablets and laptops – which pull attention from TV ads.

The easing of regulation to permit product placement within TV programmes has enhanced the viewability of brands via the medium. However, both the Ofcom rules and commercial realities restrict the ease of access and prominence of this method.

Currently, brands primarily assess their buying and evaluation of TV advertising by gross (total audience) ratings points and target (defined audience) ratings points.

Both are effectively measures of reach and impressions. As such, TV advertisers are experiencing similar problems to digital advertisers buying banners on a cost per impression basis. Many TV performance reports of the numbers of people who saw the ads are from samples, and are available only after the ad campaign. Although real-time metrics are emerging, they assess the display of the ad on the TV, not the number of people who actually viewed the ads.

There’s a business opportunity in developing technology or advertising techniques that optimise ad viewability for TV advertisers. The solution may exist in establishing new creative systems that maintain audience engagement with TV sets. A new breed of internet-connected TVs could detect each home’s wireless settings, synch the consumers’ second screens, and serve consistent ads across all devices and content platforms. It may be that a new evaluation company can be built, that offers real-time metrics that incorporate viewability metrics.

Admittedly, viewability of TV ads poses a difficult challenge for attendees at London Startup Weekend. However, solving the problems could open up significant commercial gain.”

Find out more about Startup Weekend here

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