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The key to digital advertising success

Viewability and fraudulent traffic might be the leading causes of stress for those of us who work in ad tech. They're both unavoidable, popping up in the daily trade publications to constantly remind us of their disruptiveness. Now more than ever, agencies and brands are buying based on viewability, and third parties are working frantically to define it in a way that can be standardized across the industry. Although most of the responsibility falls on the exchanges and SSPs to ensure inventory is quality and viewable, this approach ignores one equally, if not more, important aspect: the creative. The IAB defines a "viewable" impression as one that's at least 50 percent visible for at least one second, but if the creative does not stand out, it does not matter how "viewable" the ad is if everyone skips it, deletes it, or simply ignores it. In my opinion, viewability is just what it says -- people actually view it and know they viewed it. Sure, data-driven programmatic advertising is the wave of the future, but without compelling creative content all the placement in the world won't turn a casual viewer into a customer.

In order for digital advertising to reach its full potential, we all need to do our part, especially on the creative side. Creative teams are constantly at work, digging deep into the depths of their brains to drum up something that consumers will actually want to watch. It's probably the most difficult facet of advertising, and some do it much better than others. In order for a message to drive audience behavior, the creative content must not be an afterthought.

For example, I was recently doing research on web analytics and came across a pre-roll video for a website visitor insights platform called Crazy Egg. The insanely creative way the company used animation to effectively explain its product blew me away, enticing me to visit its site immediately after watching the ad in its entirety. In fact, I enjoyed it more than most TV commercials I've seen because of its sensational ability to provide a deep dive into the product's features while remaining humorous and entertaining.

Another pre-roll video that resonated with me was one for Spartan Race. It was beautifully done, showing participants struggling as they trudged through mud, climbed over obstacles, and pulled concrete blocks through dirt. It showed everything that Spartan Race represents -- from participants grimacing from the pain they're fighting through, to picking themselves up after a fall. Since I have a Tough Mudder race coming up, I was compelled to visit the site and take a look at the sign-up form. Here was a case where evocative emotional content met with effective targeting in a powerful combined package generated positive results. It's the type of Holy Grail that all advertisers should be shooting for.

Too often I see non-compelling, irrelevant ads that flat out bore me, and I'm sure there are plenty more that I never even notice. What causes this lack of creative effort in the digital realm? Too many brands focus on high-quality print, TV, and even radio messages. Then they settle for bland digital banners merely to get impressions.

This is where we get bogged down as an industry, and it is also the space in which we have the greatest opportunity to provide value to the companies we represent. Those of us in the advertising business have so much data at our fingertips that we can lose sight of the human element that ultimately drives the success or failure of our venture. With programmatic ad buying, we can immerse ourselves in endless iterations of data, thereby losing sight of the real purpose of our message: to turn everyday people into customers. No matter how well targeted and widely viewed my message is, it's all for naught if the message itself isn't compelling enough to influence the people who view it.

Advertising, especially in the digital world, needs to be more engaging. People consume digital content rapidly, so if you want yours to be viewed it needs to stand out. Just think about how often you switch tabs, open new apps, go back and forth to and from social platforms, and get distracted from your computer, tablet, and/or phone. In order to get a consumer's attention, there must be a robust, refined creative effort that stands out.

The winds of change are starting to blow. Currently, agencies and brands are revamping their ad spend and focusing more on device interaction rather than broadcast and print. Since new forms of engagement are so easy to switch off, or look away from, creatives need to step up and show us something that can keep us attentive and entertained. It's an entirely new and unique way to engage users, which is precisely why there is going to be a drastic shift in how creatives create. The success of digital advertising falls on their shoulders, and there is no doubt in my mind that they will answer the call and prevail.

Does this add a wrinkle to the true definition of what counts as a viewable ad versus non-viewable? Will it add more complexity to an already complex issue? The answers may be yes, but wouldn't you agree that the quality of the creative plays a major role in true viewability?


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