All page impressions are not born equal

A Forrester report that was released in June 2009, and updated in July 2009, revealed that US consumers spend 34% of their total media time online, yet only 12% of marketing budgets are being spent on digital advertising. When you consider that the same consumers are spending 35% of their media time watching TV, and 31% of marketing budgets being spend on TV advertising then you can see the disparity between time-spent and pounds-spent only too clearly.

Also we know that much of the money spent on digital advertising is made up of search and direct response advertising, so the opportunity to grow branding campaigns online is significant. It is my hope that the launch of UKOM this year will help brand managers properly understand the true value of the internet as a tool for building brands, and that the spend in our medium on brand campaigns will increase to be more in line with consumer behavior.

To build a brand online, I think you have to ensure that your message is in front of the right audience, within the right environment, with the right creative message and with the consumer spending the longest period of time with that message that you can manage. Without that dwell time, your brand message will largely go unnoticed.

One of the problems facing brands however is that online advertising is measured in impressions, and not all impressions are born equal. If you are on your free email account for instance, you could rattle through six or seven page impressions before even stopping for long enough to read more than a few words. For example:

Portal page, click.
Email, click.
Inbox, click.
Delete spam, click.
First email, click.
First pause while you scan the email, then click back to Inbox, click.
Second email, click.

There are billions of page impressions a month created in such a way, and they are virtually useless to a brand, because the dwell time is non-existent.

Video advertising has the opportunity to be the champion of online branding campaigns because generally speaking the formats offer more impact, more engagement and combine the powerful sight, sound and motion combination that previously have been the unique selling points of TV and cinema advertising. Video is the medium that most closely resembles the way people experience real life, so by combining that with a lean forward internet session, in the right environment is a powerful proposition.

The other great thing about video is that it slows the user journey across the internet right down, and creates ‘sticky’ pages that hold the viewer’s attention for longer, and thus enable brands to start building.

The trouble is that publishers are remunerated for space currently based on the number of page impressions that they produce, not the length of time that the user spends with each of those impressions, so guess what, sites produce search and site map strategies that increase the number of page impressions. I would ague that one page impression that lasts 60 seconds, is far more valuable than 6 page impressions that last 10 seconds each, yet publishers are still able to make more money from the former than the latter, and so that will always be a major focus for them.

What I think needs to happen in order for brands to get the most out of the internet, is for a payment system based on dwell time to be introduced. Maybe brands could pay for ten minutes of brand exposure on a certain site, and to a certain audience, rather than for 10m page impressions? It would then be in the publisher’s best interest to produce rich content that keeps the viewer interested on the page for longer, and thus benefits the brands using that site to advertise.

Maybe a cross-payment system could be devised that scientifically cross-measures page impressions with dwell time and unique users?

Currently this would favour publishers like Sky, Channel 4 and who have long-form content, and publishers such as, and who have super-rich content being uploaded every minute of every day, and who all use video in order to enrich their story-telling.

It clearly wouldn’t suit the portals, who under such a system would probably be soley employed to deliver direct response campaigns, where mass reach and cheap cpm’s are key.


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