In Response to The New York Times’ “The Great Unwatched”

In Response to The New York Times’ “The Great Unwatched”

If you opened up The New York Times this weekend, you likely saw the front page of the Business Section and read the article by David Segal on the challenges with measurability, transparency and accountability in the world of digital advertising. Segal writes, “Given the nearly $3 billion a year now spent on online video ads, and the 57 percent of them that are deemed unviewable, it’s safe to assume that American brands are now spending more than $1 billion a year on marketing that few if any people see.”

Bully Pulpit Interactive has been on the cutting edge of online advertising since we helped run the largest digital political media spend in history with President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. We learned then and continue to prove that digital paid media can be extremely effective.  And compared with TV, print and radio – digital is the only medium that can tell you whether an ad was actually seen.

However, with the surplus of online inventory and the billions of web pages and video produced across the web every day, The New York Times accurately reports that just because an ad is targeted at a certain person online doesn’t actually mean that person was able to see the ad due to a number of factors – ad placement, user behavior and inventory quality.

But as innovation within the digital advertising industry improves, we all can become more accountable. And this is why we have been hard at work with technology and advertising partners like Precision Network to improve reporting and targeting capabilities as well as visibility measurement and understand time spent watching videos as well as audience engagement with the ad unit itself.

We know that it is not enough to know that a video simply played. We want to know how much of the video was actually watched or whether the sound was muted. And, if the viewer stopped watching, we want to know when they stopped watching so we can give that valuable intelligence back to our creative teams and create more engaging video content.

We know that digital advertising can help elect a president, sell cars and protect the environment. Our focus in 2014 is to make our advertising campaigns more measurable and more impactful. This means that we:

Hold ourselves and our partners to the highest standard:  Track the “exposure time” of every ad. We know that there’s a difference between an ad that’s seen for 1 second and one that’s seen for 20 seconds – and we need to take into account the true value and whether a user could plausibly have gotten the message.

Focus on metrics that matter: Direct Response campaigns are easy to optimize when they have a goal and single KPI. But branding and persuasion campaigns need more credible measures of whether people are paying attention beyond a click. Did the user mute the video ad? Did they jump to another tab while the video play the background?  Working with the best partners and technology in the advertising space, we approach reporting and optimization to focus on the full spectrum of user engagement.

Protect our clients and know when to push back: Our team at BPI manually vets every site our ads run on to make sure that they’re brand appropriate and with our accountability metrics we can push back on publishers and networks who tell us we are hitting certain targets, but our data says otherwise.

We continue to look forward to enhanced measurement technology to make an impact for our client’s causes and campaigns online.

Questions? Email us or contact your account lead.

Mike Schneider is the Director of Product Development at Bully Pulpit Interactive, where he leads ideation and development of BPI’s marketing technology stack.