Hey, Where’d My Web Ad Go?
One of the big selling points of Internet ads is supposed to be the pinpoint accuracy they provide. Marketers pay to reach a precise number of people, in a particular place, and they only pay when those people actually see their messages.
Turns out that’s not really the case, though. Even in 2012, buying a Web ad — particularly a branded Web ad, as opposed to a Google-style search play — still involves big doses of hope and faith.
A new comScore survey lists all sorts of ways that advertisers can end up not getting what they paid for:
- Only an average of 69 percent of ads that count as “delivered” are actually seen by Web surfers. The remainder go unnoticed, either because users scrolled by them before they loaded, or because the ad ran on a part of a Web page that they never saw. Another way of putting it: Three times out of 10, an advertiser gets charged for a phantom ad.
- An average of 4 percent of ads — a number that floats up to 15 percent — run “outside the desired geography.” No reason for a Web surfer in Arizona to see ads for snow tires, but there’s no guarantee that won’t happen.
- 72 percent of marketers find some of their ads running “next to content deemed ‘not brand safe’ by the advertiser.” That’s a know-it-when-you-see-it definition, but easy enough to imagine.
If you want to, you can take these numbers with a dose or two of salt, because they come in service of a press release announcing a new comScore product that promises to track all this stuff. But there are plenty of people who think this is a real problem. Enough to support a series of start-ups aimed at doing the same thing, like DoubleVerify, AdXpose and AdSafe. [UPDATE: Comscore gently reminds me that it acquired AdXpose last August, and is using that company's tech to power the new service. Apologies for the oversight.]
And yes, all of this holds Web ads to a much higher standard than old media ads, where marketers have only a vague sense about the way their ads are delivered. But that’s the standard the Web ad business has been using to sell itself for years, so it needs to come through eventually.