Today’s column is written by Peter Spande, chief revenue officer at Business Insider.
The hits keep coming.
Publishers must contend with so many threats that they all feel existential. The list is long but a handful of very real challenges rise to the top.
There’s the issue of viewability, especially the 30% to 50% of ads that may or may not be viewable, depending on the measurement tool one employs. There’s also mobile, where many publishers see softer demand for mobile inventory despite a majority of user visits and page views coming from audiences on smart phones.
And then there’s ad blocking. If viewability and mobile ads weren’t challenging enough, the entire industry now lives with the threat of virtually no ads reaching audiences employing ad blockers.
All three challenges possess a common denominator that receives virtually no attention in the many conversations around these issues: the expanding file sizes of ads. These ever-increasing ad file sizes directly impact the issues of our day, and without examining ad files sizes we threaten the continued success of online advertising.
Load Times Impact Viewability
Large files sizes result in very slow ad load times. These ad load times give audiences the time they need to scroll or swipe past any ad that was supposed to serve in a given location.
The Media Rating Council standardized the definition of a viewable ad but there is no standard for when measurement firms should begin the stopwatch for measuring viewability. If a service waits for the entire ad to load before beginning measurement and another begins the clock when the ad call is delivered, there can be huge discrepancies. And those discrepancies increase as the file size increases.
Slow ad load times on super-fast desktop connections are certainly too large for most mobile connections. As more advertisers focus their mobile investment on larger and richer mobile ad formats, the load speed and data requirements of mobile ads become even more important.
Yes, this impacts viewability and ad effectiveness but it also results in direct fees for most mobile visitors who possess limited amounts of mobile bandwidth. Smaller ads still consume data and will take time to load with a slow connection but will perform far better than the larger, slower creative often finding its way into mobile user experiences today.
Respecting The User
While many issues with ad blocking go beyond ad file sizes, there is a recurring cry from ad-blocking advocates who say, “Publishers and advertisers have taken things too far.”
A cleaner, faster ad experience is the first and best response to that criticism, especially for mobile audiences who pay for the data that loads the ad on the page. If publishers are able to convince visitors with ad blockers installed to whitelist their ads, they will need to show that they have created an experience that respects the user.
But what about those beautiful ads? Can a brand stand out without resource-consuming rich media experiences? I think so.
Behind native advertising’s success is an acknowledgement that the Internet is as different from print or broadcast as they are from each other. Porting print or broadcast ads to a site is not the best use of the medium. In some cases, there are strong performance metrics that prove that these native efforts outperform those bloated rich media ad executions.
Many use these results to suggest that banners are dead. I think this simply suggests that ad messaging that is respectful of the environment in which it is served will perform better than something that seems like an intruder. In many cases, the performance of these friendlier ads speaks for itself, in both immediate and post-click metrics.
A move to smaller ads file sizes is no panacea but it is a great next step. As pricing models move from CPM to viewable CPM and the majority of ad inventory moves from desktop to mobile, publishers will need to contend with the challenges resulting from bloated ad creative more directly.
Certainly, this is only part of the solution to viewability, mobile ad effectiveness and ad blocking, but it needs to become a part of the discussion. Right now, it is rarely even considered, let alone mentioned.
Jeff Bezos famously said, “One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”
Let’s get to work.