MSNBC Digital did something really interesting yesterday and it raised a couple of questions in my mind. On the one hand, they’re making a powerful statement about the accountability possible with digital advertising. On the other hand they might be raising a number of issues for their corporate cousins in other media. But let’s review what they’ve done and I’ll let you decide.Here is the gist of it as reported in this Media Post article:
Preaching accountability, MSNBC Digital on Monday rolled out a new ad rendering system across its entire network of sites. Christened ServeView, the system counts ads as delivered impressions only when they’re visible to site visitors, said Charlie Tillinghast, president and publisher of the MSNBC Digital Network.
“We’re only selling ads that are rendered in the viewable area,” said Tillinghast. “Why should marketers pay for ads that no one sees?
Neat idea, right? We won’t charge you on banners served since they might be served “below the fold” or somewhere where they’re not seen. True impressions delivered. I like it. Then again, it raises some questions.
- We know TV ads run but did the audience stay in the room? Yes, I’m aware of “commercial audiences” but that’s not always how the deals are done. Besides, did anyone actually watch?
- We know magazine ads are printed but did the reader turn the page or stop and take notice?
- When we’re using average quarter-hour numbers, how do we know that the listener, in the case of radio, didn’t switch out during the commercials?
The answers to the above are “no, in general, we don’t know.” But we charge as if we do and always have, which is why what MSNBC is doing changes the paradigm a bit. How does this bleed, eventually, into other media or, if it doesn’t, do the CPM‘s in other media, which are higher than those for most digital, get brought back to digital’s level? Or, more hopefully, does digital get more credit and a bit of a rate hike?
CPC isn’t the answer either, just as awareness measures aren’t for the other media. After all, media is the carrier, not the message. If the creative is lousy (there are TV ads I switch away from instantly), that’s not the medium‘s fault.
Is this a precedent or just an interesting experiment? What do you think?