"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.
Today’s column is written by Tod Loofbourrow, CEO at ViralGains.
Last year, Procter & Gamble spent $8.3 billion on advertising, making the company the world’s top advertiser. Accordingly, the words of P&G CMO Marc Pritchard have enormous power. In fact, Pritchard’s call to lay down new rules for agencies and ad tech represents a shot heard around the advertising world.
P&G doesn’t “want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain,” Pritchard declared, before taking aim at fraud and viewability issues that plague ad tech, alarm advertisers and ultimately lead to an annoying consumer experience. Pritchard is right to call for reform on areas like ad fraud, user-generated content and measuring genuine views, and he’s smart to insist on collective action – the only way to enforce standards.
But when it comes to picking a standard for buying video, P&G should consider an alternate point of view, because I believe that advertisers who use the MRC’s video viewability standard are buying worthless impressions.
Why The MRC Standard Fails Advertisers And Consumers
Video viewability standards commit advertisers to paying for video ads whenever at least 50% of the ad player is on the screen for two seconds or more, even with the sound off. Think about that. An advertiser creates a beautiful 30-second story that evokes emotion, builds brand affection and impacts brand preference; then it pays for someone to scroll by it for two seconds with the sound off. Can viewers really say that the brand’s message comes through in the first two seconds? Do they feel any differently about the brand? Did they learn anything about the brand or product in two seconds?
At best, the viewer who sticks around just long enough for the advertiser to pay for the impression will see the brand’s name and logo. But by that logic, advertisers are paying video prices for banner ads. CMOs could create a bigger brand impact by canceling their video buys and burning their ad budgets in the middle of the street – a stunt that would likely garner millions of earned media impressions.
Video Is Unique
Video is a powerful medium because stories with sight, sound and motion strike an emotional chord. That’s why movies and television play such a significant role in our culture. CPG brands like P&G turn to video because a compelling offer might tempt consumers to try new toothpaste, but only a story can bond them to the brand. No wonder characters like Mr. Clean have been making commercials since 1958.
But unlike TV, digital video is a two-way medium. Advertisers use technology to gather data on who’s watching, where and when, how long they engaged and what device or browser they used. That knowledge fundamentally changes what can be achieved with digital video.
What Do CMOs Want?
In the television age, CMOs needed scale and they relied on media agencies to get it. Media agencies were created to scale a commoditized product – gross ratings points (GRPs). GRPs were invented for TV by Nielsen as a way for brands to normalize their buying across TV programs. As DDB Worldwide Chairman Keith Reinhard told Business Insider, “When [media agency] Carat said GRPs are like pork bellies and soybeans – the more you buy the cheaper it is – clients couldn’t resist.”
Today, CMOs still want scale, but they also require effectiveness and accountability. That’s why Marc Pritchard is right to be frustrated with ad tech. The standards are all over the place – one ad tech vendor points to metrics that show a lift in positive attitude among viewers, while another vendor supplies data that says the same video garners only average engagement. How can brands tell what’s working and what isn’t?
Increased flexibility and experimentation on the advertiser’s part is only part of the solution. Ad tech also needs to step up to create its own digital answer to the television GRP, one that ties together the power of digital into a meaningful standard for buying video and measuring successful engagement. A universal digital video standard can’t just tell a CMO that 50% of an ad was visible for at least two seconds; it needs to encompass credible viewability and brand-safe standards, along with metrics for attention and engagement KPIs that lead down the path to purchase.
Marc Pritchard is a smart guy who holds one of the most important jobs in advertising.
He’s put his finger on the problem, and CMOs should rally around him and demand accountability from ad tech vendors and agencies to deliver transparency, brand safety, data quality and the metrics CMOs care about: return on investment for every dollar they spend and measurable change in brand perception, purchase intent and loyalty.