In case you missed it, Facebook has announced two updates related to ad viewability and reporting on the social networking site. The first is a brand new ad buying option that gives advertisers the option to purchase ad impressions where the entire ad has passed through a user’s News Feed. The second is a new partnership with Moat, an ad analytics company, which will independently measure Facebook video ads. Facebook plans to roll out Moat verification to include the Instagram platform further down the road.
Facebook’s announcement follows a report last week by the Financial Times, which confirmed that “YouTube is preparing to allow companies to independently verify what proportion of the adverts they place on the video platform can be seen by viewers.” That comes after Business Insider reported that Facebook was adopting the Gross Rating Points (GRPs) system in a bid to attract more advertisers to the site.
Video Advertising Metrics: What Impact?
Earlier this year, Think with Google published an infographic that showed the average viewability of video ads across the web (not including YouTube) was 54%. For YouTube, video viewability across devices and apps was significantly higher at 91%.
So, you might be tempted to think that YouTube started this whole brouhaha over viewability. But, the real instigators have been the advertisers who are pushing YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and other video platforms to let them independently verify that their video ads have been seen.
Now, that’s not a bad thing. But, I hope these advertisers don’t stop there. Because, after verifying that your video ads have been seen, you’ll also want to know if your video ads have had an impact on brand awareness, ad recall, and brand interest. And you may not need to know if they’ve had an impact on ad recall.
In his classic book, Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy says, “Nobody has been able to demonstrate a relationship between recall and sales”. Twenty-five years ago, my father learned this painful lesson the hard way when he was the director of marketing for Oldsmobile. Considering today’s demands by some ad agencies for third-party verification of “viewability” and “GRPs”, I figured that this was a good time to share his painful lesson with you.
Video Ad Viewability Doesn’t Always Equal Recall
Most ad agencies want people to recall their ad, because that’s what they create. However, the typical business model for ad agencies back in the late 1980s was built on how much media they bought on behalf of their clients, not on any measurable impact on brand awareness, ad recall, or brand interest.
However, marketers needed consumers to be aware of their brand, and be interested in buying it. Sometimes the agency’s goal of ad recall was aligned with the client’s goal of brand awareness and brand interest. But it was a myth that all advertising increased sales to some degree. It didn’t.
As Ogilvy observed 30 years ago, the wrong type of advertising can have an adverse effect on sales, and as an example the agency cited a survey that found the consumption of one brand of beer was lower among people who remembered its advertising than those who did not. In effect, “the brewer had spent millions of dollars on advertising which un-sold his beer”.
My father also learned this painful lesson when his highly-recalled ad campaign, which proclaimed, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” un-sold 62.5% of his target audience in less than five years. Before the ad campaign was launched, Oldsmobile had sold 1.2 million cars in 1986, making it the third leading car brand in the U.S., behind only Chevrolet and Ford. The ad campaign, which featured celebrities driving and Olds with their kids, made the phrase, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” a meme that many older consumers still recall today. But sales of Oldsmobiles fell to 900,000 in 1987, 800,000 in 1988, 700,000 in 1989, 600,000 in 1990, and 450,000 in 1991.
During this time, my father asked his ad agency, Leo Burnette, how they were measuring the results of the ad campaign. They answered, “GRPs.” This prompted my father to ask them, “How many GRPs do we need to sell a car?”
Now, General Motors had lots of other problems – which is why it filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and closed several brands, including Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer. But Oldsmobile’s 107-year history ended five years earlier in 2004. So, I’d argue that measuring results using GRP’s knocked about five year’s off of the life of Oldsmobile’s brand.
Gross Rating Points: History Repeating Itself?
Why should video marketers care about this old story? Because we’re watching history repeat itself as ad agencies demand third-party verification of the “viewability” of their online videos so they can use GRPs to measure results just like they do with TV. But a GRP is a measure of the size of an advertising campaign by a specific medium or schedule. It does not measure the size of the audience reached. In other words, it measures how much media an ad agency has bought on behalf of its client. It doesn’t measure the impact of your video ads on brand awareness and brand interest.
So, yes, if an ad isn’t seen, then it can’t have an impact on any metric that matters. That’s why measuring viewability is a step in the right direction. But, you should also understand that viewability and GRPs are not the metrics you’re looking for. They measure advertising outputs, not business outcomes.