Time to bring common sense metrics to Facebook and VoD ad views
A view from Sue Unerman

Time to bring common sense metrics to Facebook and VoD ad views

We cannot accept a situation in which ads, designed to be viewed for 30 seconds, are counted when only half the ad is seen for a tenth of that time, writes Sue Unerman.

The glory of business travel is doing your own ironing, according to Rob Norman, chief digital officer of Group M, and he travels a lot, so if anyone should know, Rob should.

He posted a of himself ironing a shirt on Facebook under the caption "Iron Man" (geddit?). This video has received over 2.5k views.

Rob ironing is lovely to watch, most certainly it is. However when I mentioned the huge views he’d received (probably because I’m envious of his huge fanbase) to one of our directors he sniffed a bit and pointed out that a Facebook view counts if it only lasts three seconds. Frankly just the time it takes to register the content and scroll past it.

I’m sure that thousands of people really have enjoyed Rob’s domestic excellence, and witty pun. I don’t know how many of them have stuck for the full 30 seconds. Or had the sound turned up for the inimitable wit.

In the context of video for brands this raises some real questions about the comparability of metrics. If an advertiser uses a 30-second ad designed for TV for online video for good audience reach based reasons it’s transferring an ad that is designed to be watched for 30 seconds. Not three.

And for some video-on-demand channels, three seconds seems generous, expansive even. There are other VoD services where two seconds is enough to count as a view.

In all cases this is enough to count as paid for viewing for a 30-second ad. Is it any wonder that metrics of effectiveness are not uniform across all channels? Especially if you add to the mix that in most cases only half the ad needs to be in view, to be counted. So that’s two seconds and 50% of the video.

Either we need to be very clever about the ad formats for this distribution, redesign the copy to get the essential sales message across in one tenth of the time it was designed for and with branding that’s obvious without full-screen visibility or sound. Or we need to start to question what advertisers should pay for.

With his fully ironed shirt on and his Group M hat, Rob Norman has called for best practice in viewability, appointing John Montgomery to set market leading standards

As Maisie McCabe pointed out in Campaign recently, we should be proud of advertising and the benefits that it brings for the wider public. I completely agree with her. It is difficult to do this on the one hand while we are making a nonsense of advertising views on the other hand.

Increased viewing time of VoD unsurprisingly leads to increased advertising recall and ultimately effectiveness.

This is not a critique of Facebook or VoD as effective advertising channels. It isn’t a reference to the average video duration calculations from the former. It's an attempt to bring common sense to the metrics overall in order to sort the wheat from the chaff, what works from what doesn't and how it should be made accountable.

We cannot accept a situation that accepts that ads, designed to be viewed for 30 seconds, are counted when only half the ad is seen for a tenth of that time. This is not an equivalent.

It isn’t good for the brands in question, the effectiveness of the expenditure and ultimately it isn’t good for either the end user or the reputation of advertising as a whole.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom.
@sueu