Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Dino Myers-Lamptey: The impression of the Impression

Dino Myers-Lamptey is Founder, The Barber Shop and NDA’s new regular columnist.

What’s your impression of the Impression?

More than 2billion voters are set to go to the polls in 50 countries this year, including the US, India, UK, Ghana (which as the first African country to gain independence, deserves a special symbolic mention).

5.3bn people globally use the internet, and 81.9bn advertising impressions chase this audience around it, with an estimated CPM’s of $5.40 and total global budget of $442.6bn.

These numbers are all huge, and they keep growing, with digital ad spend and CPC’s (+61% on Google) growing, and of course the profits of the biggest digital advertising companies also growing.

As an industry we are often filled with optimism and fan the flames of the larger numbers, as it often is a sign of growing advertiser demand, and better more effective solutions.

Still with all these huge numbers going in one direction, there are some concerning ones going against the tide. Advertising effectiveness, as tracked by Kantar/MillwardBrown is falling for every $ and £ spent, digital ad fraud is estimated at $190bn – yes nearly half of the global budget!, and a simple search for any social media influencer should spring up enough copycat accounts to concern anyone who believes that all their targeting is reaching potential consumers.  

The elections which will determine so much, are expected to be hugely influenced by the bots, likes and impressions served by political parties and their international armies of supporters.  So the larger number of impressions, really, really do matter, this year especially. But, what do Marketers, and Media Planners think of the blessed Impression, and what is their impression of the Impression. The answer is put into perspective when we see what matters to them.

According to WARC, four in ten (39%) marketers globally identified measurement as a top concern for 2024. Yet very few (4%) use all available marketing measurement methods in combination (brand lift studies, econometrics/MMM, experiments and attribution) and one-fifth (22%) admitted to not utilising any form of modelling. 

Put simply, measurement matters, but the humble but plentiful Impression isn’t making an impact on the econometric and MMM models we are guided by, no matter how much bigger the legion of Impressions become, and it’s easy to see why.

Advertising’s effectiveness, while reducing as an average ‘sum of all’ cases, is still effective, but, it must; Gain Attention, be seen Frequently enough, deliver New News, or provide a Timely and Contextual reminder, disproportionately to the Category (share of voice), and distinctively with Creative storytelling, delivered to Consumers (real eyeballs) with a possibility of buying. Impressions alone have significant limitations. They fail to indicate qualitative engagement and actual ad visibility. Technology is already in place to measure attention based metrics, which include metrics such as in-view time, exposure time and hover rate, but we do require letting go of norms and beliefs.

For all of this to happen, we must start positively discriminating against the billions of Impressions we are now drowning in. We must be brutal in calling out and cutting off the directionless Impressions that grow like the Japanese knotweed that bring flowers while destroying foundations. Foundations of advertising effectiveness, and foundations of democratic and fair societies.

Yes, at the moment, some of us have good impressions of the Impression, and some bad, with most of us holding the cognitively dissonant uncomfortable position of holding both perspectives. Even for marketers who are familiar with wet and windy media metrics, this foggy place in the media ecosystem is no position for businesses in the age of data led decisions..

This fog needs to lift, and the solution isn’t more Impressions, but a unified way of tracking, reporting, and filtering out bad Impressions. As we step into the new era of data and measurement, where cookies are a thing of the past, and bots are a thing of the present, the media owners that own real consumer data, that is independently verified and shows up in Econometric/MMM studies, will be the digital leaders of tomorrow.

Yes, all Impressions are (currently) equal, but some are more equal than others. So before we allow for the impression of the Impression gap to get wider, we have a chance to unite and demand more. Not more Impressions, just more good ones.