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Your Ad Doesn’t Suck, But Your Targeting Might

By Louis Halfen on June 12, 2017

Article by : Art Zeidman

As someone who has been in the online video industry since its inception, I have heard the same lament a thousand times:

From clients: “YouTube and Facebook say my :15 spot isn’t good enough to perform on their platform. They want me to create special content, because their users don’t want to watch my ad. How can they expect me to create special ads just for them?”

From the social platforms: “Clients don’t get it! All they want to do is run their lousy TV spots! Everybody hates that, and it spoils the user experience.”

From creatives: “How can I do my best work for my client when I have to create five ads with budget for just one?”

Cue sad trombone. I don’t buy any of it. The problem isn’t the ads. Do people really like to watch video ads? Maybe yes, and maybe no. But the challenge of telling a great brand story in just 15 seconds is a noble creative endeavor, and the digital ad community needs to get over itself.

If it’s a good ad on TV, it can be a good ad online. People tolerate (and even watch) good ads on TV, and there’s proof: The TV business is not in freefall. It’s not even in decline. In the U.S., TV is a $70B advertising business that is growing at around 3% per year. And the CEOs, CMOs and VPs of Media that I speak with every day tell me that they still manage large, predictable businesses, underpinned by TV campaigns that represent 50%-75% of their total marketing budgets. TV is not going away anytime soon, friends.

But TV is changing. Even the 60-inch, 4K TV in my family room with an OLED screen isn’t enough to command the full attention of my teenage sons. While I am staring at the screen, gleefully entertained by The Martin Agency’s raccoons selling GEICO insurance, my beloved children are fixated on their iPhones, Snapchatting and Gramming. (In fact, one of the reasons CBS cited for increased ad viewership is that people are too busy on their mobile devices to bother fast-forwarding DVR’d programs.)

Lucky for GEICO, I am their target demo, not my teenage sons, and they got my full attention. More good news: I am the impression that they paid for. Great creative combined with a smart media buy. Attention paid for attention purchased. Well done, GEICO, The Martin Agency and Horizon Media.

So back to the online world, where it seems it’s all whining, all the time. Does GEICO have to make a different ad to reach me online? No way. But they do need to buy their online media differently. Online video ads, like TV, are sold on an impression basis — and no one is impressed. Even with all the magical targeting in the world available at your fingertips, they are still buying against a metric that has little consequence. Media buyers know it’s a rotten game — they are paying for millions of “impressions” to make hundreds of things happen, and that ratio gets weaker every day. As Brad Jakeman famously complained last year, you know most pre-roll stinks, because there’s a countdown clock for how long you need to watch it!

Instead, brands should pay for attention. Pay for the impressions that make an impression. Nothing more, nothing less. In an attention-based market, good content will command the price it deserves, because it can deliver. And crappy content will command the price it deserves, because it can’t. So the next time someone tells you your :15 spot sucks, don’t listen. Just go target the people who want to pay attention.

Art Zeidman is the former CRO of Pixability and a longtime sales leader in the CPV video space.

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