WTF? IAB Says Performance is a Bad Thing for Online Ads
I was really interested this morning when I saw that the IAB is making an effort to combat "creative shabbiness" in display. Unfortunately it was not what I expected to read. As someone who has spent a decade building and optimizing creative for the web and has worked with six of the top eleven brands in the world I’m stunned.
Instead of being an effort to promote more holistic ad>landing page creative or institute new IAB approved ad sizes or push for new metrics that better define creative performance or issue some guidelines for creative testing and optimization (I could go on), this is a PR campaign to get brand (read TV) dollars. In fact, the idea here is to move away from the notion of performance in display and decry the very advertisers that have been successful on the web.
Rothenberg said the push… was an effort to overcome perceptions of "creative shabbiness" in online media, and to help prevent the slide toward a "performance-based" Internet advertising economy.
Whoa… a performance based advertising economy is a slide! This from the man who heads up the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
Step back for a second. According to this logic, ads that get the interest of people (clicks & conversions) are not creative. How does that make sense? Perhaps, the idea of what creative is needs to be redefined (or we need to re-read what David Ogilvy thought about creative).
No one has better captured or understood the web ad economy than the father of web based performance advertising, Bill Gross.
“The more I [thought about it], the more I realized that the true value of the Internet was in its accountability. Performance guarantees had to be the model for paying for media.”
Let me shout this into the halls of the IAB on East 26th Street. The value of the media is in its accountability! This is the most accurate metrics/analytics driven medium that exists and it’s getting better at collecting data and more intelligent about what to do with that data everyday. Smart marketers and advertisers understand how to use that data and optimize their advertising. This is what the digital game is about.
Let me get something else off my chest while we’re on the subject of creative. Almost all the issues plaguing display advertising rest in the creative end. It starts with the ad sizes and locations. The problems continue with not understanding web user behavior and experience. They fester with the cost of serving rich media. Let’s touch on this for a bit because it is an important and unspoken aspect of the issues Mr. Rothenberg alludes to.
There is a huge cost consideration if you want to serve these really “creative” ads. Flash has opened up a world of possibility but at the moment the serving fees are outrageous, let alone the costs that most agencies charge for this type of work. Coming full circle most of the agencies that do this type of work haven’t a clue how to optimize Flash ads to get people interested in them. Testing these ads is non starter and fewer still understand how to optimize the media buy for performance. Oops, I said a bad advertising word, “performance.”
The problem will only be solved by continuing to move away from a banner economy and redefine what advertising is on the web. We need to stop putting up billboards and start paving roads. We need to stop taking ad strategies from other channels and throwing them on the web. That is the real "spray and pray."
I get that Mr. Rothenberg and the IAB have the backs of publishers here and they have every reason to be worried about the display economy (albeit a day late and a dollar short) but we are NEVER going back to the hey-days of high CPM so these ideas about creative and performance are ill thought-out and pure laziness. A much better tact would be to work on blurring the very notions of what is brand and what is direct for online.
Bottom line: if you are worried about the value of display then find better ways to create that value and better ways to measure it, based on performance.