Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why creative must come first

By Julia Burton Brown, Commercial Director, Inskin

In the fast-moving world of digital advertising, current industry metrics just aren’t good enough. Viewability, for instance, only tells you if your ad had the opportunity to be seen; not if it has been seen – nor, indeed, if it had any impact.

What’s more, not all media represents the same value. Consumers spend considerable time digesting the content on premium publishers’ sites, where the huge impact of attention on brand outcomes has been proven time and again. Factors such as screen real estate have an enormous effect, too, while high-impact, brand digital advertising with quality creative – and in the right context – has been proven to drive ROI, sales, awareness and brand favourability.

The ability to measure attention on every campaign

This is why we partnered with Lumen Research – the leading attention measurement provider in the UK – to provide objective, third-party attention metrics on every campaign. Data from Lumen’s eye-tracking panels is turned into an algorithm which estimates how much attention an ad is likely to produce based on a number of characteristics – including screen real estate, the size of an ad, time in view, scroll speed and positioning. After all, overly cluttered web pages, for instance, lead to terrible user experience. Lumen’s attention measurement platform also measures in real time so that marketers can optimise towards the best performing platforms and formats as they go.

We were the first format provider to do this but we sincerely hope not to be the last. We need to pull together as an industry with a single currency such as this one. 

Indeed, it is now possible to measure factors such as attention per 1,000 impressions; average visual engagement time per impression; percentage of impressions looked at; and total attention in hours for the whole campaign. This is so much richer and more valuable than just measuring clicks and it enables marketers to optimise their efforts accordingly. What’s more, having measured attention driven by campaigns since the beginning of year, we have found that high impact formats deliver around 20 times more attention than standard display. The impact is closer, in fact, to a TV ad – but without huge production costs.

We also believe that high impact digital should be a category on its own – like social or video – but, instead, it is bundled into standard display advertising. Again, the way the industry pigeonholes its efforts is short-changing if not hoodwinking far too many of us.

Quality creative drives trust, but it can’t be rushed

It’s critical, too, that those in digital advertising remember the importance of creative – the number-one driver of trust in advertising. For too long, we have been caught up in short-term, click-driven efficiency wars – focused on targeting and often inefficient measurement, whilst leaving the importance of the creative behind. While it’s relatively straightforward to create a digital ad and go live on the same day, all too often, digital campaigns are built with TV and press assets, given the rush to deliver fast.

It’s critical that the industry shifts its focus to long-term brand building, and consideration of context, and does not focus exclusively on short-term performance, despite these pressured times. We must not forget the art in the bid to consider the science. After all, web users don’t go to websites to look at adverts. Yet, many appear to have forgotten that campaign creative has a significant impact on visual engagement. Marketers and technologists must also develop bespoke digital assets rather than shoehorning press ads or TV campaigns into digital formats. This lack of value placed on creativity and context has had a hugely detrimental impact on the digital ad industry and led to an urgent need to redress the balance with smart, consistent and considered creative – whatever the format, and whatever the channel.

And with campaign attribution largely still measured on last click metrics, we need to ask if those factors that bask in glory are truly those driving the value of campaigns. High volumes of poor quality, cheap and standard inventory does nothing for the long-term value of the brand being advertised while education is needed to ensure we attribute quality to formats which truly drive attention.

Ultimately, creative execution in advertising remains critical – whatever the channel. This is achieved via the use of captivating, engaging, high-impact formats and creative flair. In this way, brands can stand out even in a cluttered environment, delivering engaging ad experiences which capture attention, while respecting publisher content and end users. Let’s not forget that while digital ads can sell products, they can also build brands.