Media Versus Creatives: Should There Really Be A Dilemma In Display?

Carl Nelvig is the VP for R&D at Burt, a predictive analytics platform. In the second of his posts, Nelvig addresses the perceived problem in display advertising around the (in)compatibility of creativeness and media, and wonders why both can’t be combined to deliver an effective branding experience.

In my previous post on ExchangeWire, I introduced the concepts of media quality and creative efficiency. The need for these arises as soon as someone starts drawing conclusions about a creative’s ability to draw attention without compensating for the highly volatile media environment in which it was served.

I referred to an ad placement as an empty picture frame with the sole responsibility of effectively displaying its content, no matter what that content is. The media quality becomes the baseline for the impact the impression can deliver. Everything above this baseline is up to the advertiser, and their creative agency, to make sure the placement is filled with appropriate content and a creative aligned with the campaign goals. This can then be evaluated through its creative efficiency, i.e. how viewers of the campaign react to it.

All successful advertising media up until today have a fairly consistent way of delivering their messages. A 30-second spot on TV will always be free from other commercial messages competing with you for viewers attention; it will always be as big as the full screen area and it will always be visible – for a whole 30 seconds! Simply put, TV has the highest possible media quality score every time an ad is displayed.

The online ad impression, on the other hand, usually competes with up to 10 other ads on the screen, and you don’t have the slightest clue how much of your ad is visible or for how long. Different impressions of the very same campaign will have vastly different media quality scores.

As an analyst, you will pretty soon find yourself in a labyrinth trying to judge if a small ad visible for 10 seconds results in a better or worse impact than a larger ad which stays visible for three seconds with two other ads. Due to the vast possibilities for measuring online display, you are constantly forced to make trade-offs between getting more out of one metric at the price of some other metric.

At Burt, we solve this with a simple, easy-to-grasp metric called “media quality”. It is based on the media parameters mentioned and weighed against each other to produce a score between 0 and 10. The key is, it is only when you combine all the components of media quality that you can judge their overall impact; and when you do, you are not really interested in how you reached your score of seven, as long as a media quality rating of 7/10 works for the purpose of your brand building campaign.

Creative efficiency, on the other hand, is an equally simple model, only it is focused on different types of metrics. Here we are interested in the attention the creative solution attracts from the audience. If there is a mouse pointer available, for example, it’s movement patterns – both frequency and duration – serve as a proxy for attention. The same applies to clicks.

What is very important, however, is to isolate the creative effects from the media effects. If you have an in-screen rate of 8%, you should only calculate the CTR based on those 8% of impressions where the user had an opportunity to see the ad if you want to use CTR as a measurement for attention. The same applies for the size of the ad, number of other ads or the visible duration – when the media quality varies, interaction, dwell and click rates will vary correspondingly, even if the creative solution is the same. Compensating for this is key when creating a useful model for creative efficiency.

So, as a publisher, what can you do to make a difference?

Creating more inventory with higher media quality is fairly simple and effective. Large ad formats take up a bigger portion of what your readers pay attention to. They need to stay visible on the screen for a certain amount of time so that a memory actually can be formed. Many other visible ads on the same page will steal attention, increase clutter and reduce your media quality.

Finally, I would recommend reading Gustav von Sydow’s ‘Three golden rules for successful advertising formats’ if you are responsible for developing your advertising product.

Not a publisher? As a brand advertiser, your job starts now.

Given this method of isolating the media effects from your creative, you are good to go with A/B testing of your campaigns. Design multiple creative solutions (variations in copy, color, font, …), evaluate the creative efficiency of each and learn the reason why some of them perform better than others. Use those lessons for your next campaign.

So to wrap this up, what might have appeared as a dilemma, or incompatibility, within display advertising is in fact just two sides of the same coin. When used properly, they enable us to isolate and understand two of the most important contributors to online display advertising – media vs. creative. That means we now truly are able to start maximising the effect of online display by creating even more clever advertisements while buying media which delivers results!

Gustav von Sydow, CEO, Burt is speaking at the upcoming ATS Stockholm event on May 24. Tickets are now on sale for the Nordic’s first data-driven advertising conference.

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