Jim Freeman, group sales and trading director at Telegraph Media Group, said advertisers were suffering because many publishers charge for ads that appear on-screen for just one second – the viewability threshold set by the Internet Advertising Bureau.
He told an audience of media buyers at Century Club in London: "TMG believes that the standard for viewability does not go far enough and does not fully recognise advertisers’ needs."
Freeman cited research from IPG Media and Integral Ad Science that showed 80% of ads are not recalled after one second of viewing and noted how brand awareness and recall rise significantly after seven seconds, which is why TMG has set a ten-second threshold.
Advertisers expected to pay premium for guaranteed viewability
The newspaper group has changed its online display technology so that an ad can appear in a fixed position on the screen for ten seconds, even when a user is scrolling up or down to look at a news article. There is an option for a second ad to appear in the same spot afterwards.
No other ad appears elsewhere on the screen at the same time, so each brand has 100% share of voice.
"The ad will be seen for 10 seconds’ minimum or you don't pay for that ad impression," Freeman said.
He claimed TMG’s ten-second viewability threshold compared favourably with other publishers, notably Facebook, which counts an ad as being viewable after just one second, according to Freeman.
Advertisers would be expected to pay a premium for an ad that was guaranteed to be viewable for ten seconds – theoretically around 1.4 times the standard rate or a 40% premium, based on cost per thousand.
Brands and agencies could still opt for a standard display ad instead of paying for the guaranteed ten-second view.
Will readers swallow it?
Ian Maude, director of Be Heard Group, a digital marketing group, said ten-second viewable ads could work and were "similar to "YouTube's 'TrueView' ads that you watch for five seconds" before the user can click away.
Maude said: "The question isn't will advertisers like it? Of course, they'll like it if a reader sits through an ad for ten seconds and paying a 40% premium might be quite attractive. The question is whether readers are going to swallow it?
"If it interrupts you from getting to news or it becomes an annoyance, that might be a problem. Unless readers engage with it, it's not going to fly. But if it works, other publishers will follow suit pretty quickly."
Guaranteed ten-second viewable ads were just one of six "premium" online ad innovations announced by Freeman.
He said "confidence in digital advertising as an effective advertising platform is at an all-time low" because of problems such as viewability, ad-blocking and fraud and TMG wanted to set a "a new standard for advertisers based on common sense and advertiser needs".
The six Telegraph innovations are:
1. Premium Direct ads that are viewable for 10 seconds (rather than for a minimum of one second) and are 100% viewable on the screen (rather than the IAB standard of 50% on-screen). It is a "fraud-free" and "clutter-free" environment because no other display formats are on the page at the same time;
2. "Trending" package that allows advertisers to "plug in" to the Telegraph’s website and take advantage of unforeseen spikes in demand for live news by buying ads through an automated, programmatic-based private marketplace. Freeman cited coverage of a recent boxing match featuring Floyd Mayweather that unexpectedly attracted 16 million users to the Telegraph website at around 6am;
3. "Peaks" package that allows advertisers to target users with tailored creative by time of day, when traffic is at its highest, and by platform – for example, desktop at lunchtime or on tablet in the late evening;
4. "Native" Direct that allows advertisers to work with TMG to publish sponsored content with the "look and feel" of editorial within a news article with what Freeman called "optimal ‘in-stream’ positioning". He showed an example where a box of sponsored content appeared relatively near the top of a news article as the user scrolled down. Previously, advertisers have mainly used third-party networks, rather than dealing directly with the Telegraph. The Telegraph commercial content team, Spark, will work with brands to "test" and "optimise" headlines on sponsored content. Research has shown time spent per page rose;
5. A commercial sponsor’s logo or branding will appear at the top of the screen throughout the time a user is looking at a sponsored story and scrolling through it – a change dubbed "Telegraph Viewable Sponsorship". It means advertisers benefit from a "greater presence and ownership of content";
6. A mobile viewable solution, to be revealed later in the year, called "mobile sticky".
Freeman claimed the six innovations are "way ahead of the tech and industry bodies which profess to have the clients’ interests at heart".
Privately-owned Telegraph Media Group is one of the most profitable UK newspaper companies but all publishers have been hit by a downturn in print ad revenue, which is estimated to have fallen by a double-digit percentage this year, while Facebook and Google have gobbled up much of the growth in digital ads.