Bad Metrics Will Make Ad Blocking Worse

eliott-hirschData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Elliot Hirsch, CEO at AdYapper.

You can see the breakdown in accountability in digital advertising everywhere these days as conflicts of interest continuously arise. It’s why viewability has driven publishers to rotate ads every two seconds. It’s why cookie-bombing and bot nets exist. It’s why frequency caps are ignored at the end of the month and why media buyers get kickbacks from their own trading desks.

In digital, new metrics and insights that serve to stop these issues are flies to be swatted for the sake of the spending spree. While there are viewability standards, frequency caps and white lists in place, any real value in these controls is often sacrificed in the name of completing the campaign before the end date. It’s a shame that everyone in the ecosystem has the tools to provide quality insights and performance, but instead seek incentives to do the opposite.

Digital media buying is now in the middle of a drastic shift as more conflicts of interest emerge with vendors, agencies and publishers. With people at the top of brand organizations wanting more accountability, ad blocking can actually serve as a catalyst for change.

Ad blocking is caused by the consumer. There are no more publisher or vendor scapegoats to blame. It’s time to seriously evaluate the holistic digital media spend and find metrics that can show where real value is created.

Ad Blocking Requires Brands To Find Better Metrics

For brands, the best place to start is with the very metrics they use to determine campaign success. I’ve seen 180-degree changes in spending behavior once success metrics are put in place that emphasize data and performance over spending and volume.

For example, rather than use an in-view metric that gives credit to websites that show an ad for the minimum allowable time to be considered viewable in order to maximize volume, a time-in-view metric can instead show how engaged a consumer is, which will account for ad blocking. With this one change, a media plan can be turned virtually upside down as publishers that actually capture a consumer’s attention get more credit than those that throw a ton of barely viewable ads at them.

Ad blocking is a perfect reason to associate conversion metrics with a campaign, even if those metrics are soft, such as engagement or website visits. These metrics indicate that an ad was not only served, but seen and interacted with. Marketers can optimize toward ad types that receive the best conversion rates across publishers to avoid ad blocking as much as possible.

Similarly, by moving away from last-click attribution toward return on ad spend, marketers stop giving publishers and vendors incentives to inundate consumers with ads simply to get credit for an action that was destined to happen anyway. Again, with this simple change in metrics, ad blocking is accounted for and the whole ecosystem moves away from high-volume, low-quality ads toward value creation.

Frequency itself is another metric that is often misused and can cause consumers to block ads. With the average frequency metric, a few individuals may be exposed to a very high frequency of ads while exposure for everyone else might be well below the average. Instead, marketers should maintain a frequency cap to ensure that no one gets too many ads, which may encourage them to block ads, and that most people are exposed to just enough.

Ad Blocking Signals A New Era In Media Spending

Let’s face it: Consumers have control over digital media. The advertisers that embrace this fact will fare the best. As senior teams re-evaluate their approach to digital, they should think not just about the metrics that make their partners more accountable, but also what makes them more accountable to their own customers.

Media planners who understand what consumers respond to are experimenting with very different ad formats in digital, formats that actually blend into a consumer’s online experience rather than interrupt it, ranging from native ads and sponsored content to strategies that favor engagement with streaming video and in-app messaging. Studies show that these high-interaction ads produce results.

Consumers have the power to shut a lot of noise out, which begs the question – why are so many advertisers still shouting?

Follow Elliot Hirsch (@ElliotHirsch), AdYapper (@AdYapper) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Let’s be clear: Do you know what happens when advertisers promise to use responsible ads, stop tracking and stop using flash/video ads?


    All of this hullaballoo is really just that. What users really want is “no ads at all”.

    You can try the appeasement route. But here’s the question: Why are you pretending there’s nothing you can do about it? Adblocking is easy to defeat. Serving unblockable ads is also quite easy.

    The arms race has begun.

    There are already loads of great, free nag-technologies out there ( leads the pack).

    There are also lots of unblockable ad networks out there — like PageFair.

    The arms race has begun. Appeasement as a strategy is a form of retreat. And it doesn’t work anyway.

    Don’t be so quick to raise the white flag, Elliot!

  2. Hi Ibid,

    I hear you, and agree there are many technologies available to get ads in front of individuals against their wishes. That arms race is happening and will indeed continue, with transient victories on both sides.

    Setting that aside for a moment, I’m personally most interested in value creation. If brands are able to better understand where value is truly being created, it builds a loop that rewards both advertisers and consumers. Nurturing the good, as opposed to rewarding actions and systems which are driven by business practices contrary to a mutually beneficial brand / consumer relationship.

    Short term gains by brute force are attainable, but finding and properly rewarding value creation might have a more positive, long term impact, in addition to dramatically increasing the efficiency / removing the waste inherent in a volume driven system / economy.

    Thanks for the comment!