Fundamental Attribution Flaws In Programmatic Display

Fundamental Attribution Flaws In Programmatic Display

Having famously complained: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half”, it would be interesting to see what John Wanamaker made of the banner landscape in 2017.

In 2017, banner viewability (ads seen by a person) in the UK is just 52% - the lowest in the western world.

Given the attribution and research tools available, ad viewability could and should be 100%. So why isn’t it?

The problem lies in “performance” campaigns – those aimed at driving an acquisition.

Click based conversions are almost non-existent meaning campaigns are reliant on post-view conversions – a banner is served and a user later finds their way to site and converts. But if impressions are never seen, they haven’t influenced the user and they would have converted regardless? It’s like attributing a conversion to a press ad that appears on page 42 of a 40 page newspaper.

Banners are essentially bus side ads. They drive past the user and are mostly ignored, but sometimes enough people see them to register as brand awareness, consideration or behaviour change. With the best display suppliers and agencies the lines of attribution are clear – an ad has done its job, potentially playing a part in driving a user to a website.

With most programmatic banner activity, however, non-transparent agencies, in-house trading desks and a number of suppliers still claim the conversion (and often reap the reward) when they shouldn’t. The bus never left the depot.

The solution is clear:

Only count and report on impressions that are served and viewed.

That is what we do at Republic of Media. As a client, if your ROI is lower and your CPAs are higher, then hopefully you’ll understand that in reality, they aren’t. We’re just showing you the truth.

The industry will change. According to AdWeek, ‘approximately 90% of incremental digital advertising spend is flowing to paid search and social’. That’s not sustainable and good suppliers will win out and help reduce reliance on the duopoly of Google and Facebook.

Display still has a role to play, a good bus ad can still make someone go and see that new movie release or covet that new iPhone. And hey, someone might even click on them once in a while.

Simon Watson, Head of Digital, Republic of Media.


Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.