Eyes Wide Shut to Digital Ads

eyeMost digital ads are never displayed; even when they are, only a tiny fraction is actually viewed.  Here’s what digital advertisers can learn from print.

It’s no secret that the digital ad industry is rife with fraudulent traffic and viewability issues. Billions of dollars spent on digital advertising are simply going to waste. And marketers continue to throw good money after bad.

To compound the problem, a research study has found that, even when those ads are actually displayed to a living human consumer, they are largely going ignored.

“Since January 2016, research firm Lumen has used laptop-mounted eye-tracking cameras on 300 consumers’ laptops to collect visual data on what they notice when they are online,” writes Thomas Hobbs in Marketing Week.

“It found that only 35% of digital display ads received any views at all. And, of those, only 9% of ads received more than a second’s worth of attention. Only 4% of ads, meanwhile, received more than 2 seconds of engagement.”

Comparing that to the stats on print ads, the results are startling: “a full-page ad in a paper the same size as the tabloid the New York Daily News will be viewed by 88% of readers, for an average time of 2.8 seconds. In comparison, a billboard format ad on a website will get 38% of people looking for just 1.5 seconds,” Hobbs continues.

That’s not to say all digital display ads are ignored, points out Lumen’s Mike Follett.

“The best digital ads do get looked at – but they tend to be simple, elegant, beautiful ads that a creative department would be proud of, rather than moving direct mail pieces,” clarifies Follett.

Designers can combat this problem by taking their cues from successful print ads.

“When developing digital ads, creatives should ‘think like a poster’ rather than taking their cues from ‘performance marketers’, who have literally nothing to teach the advertising industry,” Follett notes.

Digital advertising as a channel is only 20 years old, as Follett notes, and has a long way to go to understand itself and how its users interact with the medium. The biggest problem, according to Follett, “is marketers not appreciating the limited time people actually spend on digital channels.”

“It is very cocky to think anyone is going to look at your digital video for more than 4 seconds,” Follett concludes. “You don’t put a TV ad’s worth of content into a poster so why try to in digital channels? Digital marketers need to start thinking in terms of attention economics or they will just keep on failing.”