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Publishers explore time-based ads; will it work for India?

29-August-2016
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Publishers explore time-based ads; will it work for India?

For the longest time, impressions have been the de facto metric in how ads are sold online. But over time their relevance has been falling as questions are asked about the efficacy of display advertising online.

One of the most important topics right now that advertisers and digital agencies are grappling with is about visibility. With Google declaring recently that more than 50 per cent of ads on the Google Display Network (GDN) not being seen by visitors, the topic of visibility of ads has become even more relevant. This is further exacerbated by the growing popularity of ad blockers and the advertising industry’s continuous efforts to combat this.

Just a couple of weeks ago, The Guardian announced that it is running its first digital ad campaign based on the amount of time people see the ads. By doing this it joins publishers like Financial Times and The Economist in selling ads in what is basically the television model.  In this particular case, The Guardian has started selling its ads in slots of 10, 15, 20 and 30 seconds.

It is an interesting concept and seems to be part of a wider drive by publishers to portray themselves as more reliable to their clients. However, it still seems that ideas like these are still not something Indian advertisers and publishers are comfortable with, even though the pressure to for more efficacious ad properties continues to grow.  For example, speaking earlier to us about the pressure being created by ad blockers and viewability concerns, Piyush Chhaperwal, Director (Sales) for Mobile & Online at Vdopia India, told us that new options like pushing ads ‘outstream’, which basically means that the ads do not play within the content being watched would become more important going forward.

But the Indian digital ecosystem still seems a bit wary about adopting a time-based ad metric. Swapnil Shrivastav, CTO AdTech & Colombia, Times Internet, which is possibly the biggest India-based, independent publisher online felt that even though viewable CPMs are becoming more important, a time-based metric would be difficult to adopt given the state of the current digital advertising ecosystem.

“We did think about this (time-based metric) a couple of years back but the programmatic world is based around CPM, so it becomes difficult to fit it in. This will require a change in the ecosystem. We haven’t seen a dramatic shift so far in the ecosystem and the way media agencies work,” he told us, further adding that to use something like a time-based metric would require a lot of trackers from the publisher side, which is not something that visitors like.

Manan Kotak, Digital Head at the Chitralekha Group, also agreed that it would need to the support of the big publishers and media agencies for a metric like this to work. “I still feel that click throughs are the best method for measuring the effectiveness of an ad, especially from a client’s point of view. Time based ads and impressions do not assure engagement with the user. If big digital agencies with sizable clients are convinced about time based ad metric and are willing to adopt it, it can work. It is also up to the top digital publishers to explore/adopt the same,” he opined.

Though it is a topic that most Indian advertising professionals and brands don’t want to talk about, it is a commonly held belief that digital is cannablising ad revenues from television. If a metric, usually related to the ‘traditional’ media gains in popularity, it will be interesting to see how much it affects ad revenues in the digital domain.

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