Beyond one room, one couch, one screen

10/19 By Kevin Lenane
man using multiple devices

Ad environments used to be easy to understand: a couch in a living room, positioned around a single screen. But today’s digital environment is more like five couches in front of 25 screens. It is now more important than ever to understand those environments and increase the likelihood of reaching the right person at the right time, in the right environment.

When One Screen Ruled Them All

Before the advent of the digital age, the medium wasn’t an issue for television advertisers. That issue had already been discussed and decided when choosing whether to advertise on TV, print or radio. Even maximizing GRPs was a comparatively simple process—targeting was based on the show and rating. With a few ad buys advertisers could sufficiently reach their target audience.

They didn’t need to consider where the ad would be seen. It would be on a television screen—one window unto its own, no distractions, no competing content. Sure, there were periods of transition—black and white to color; standard definition to high definition—but the setting remained the same. For its viewers, the television was a single point of focus, a beacon of light in a dim room. It alone captured the audience’s attention—one screen at a time; one ad at a time.

In today’s world, the television no longer stands alone. Audiences consume video in a variety of ways and the industry has evolved to reach them effectively, across all sized screens. However, simply targeting an audience does not take into account the impact the environment has on the ad. Poor page design, low-quality video content, and offensive content can all damage an ad’s effectiveness.

Today’s World, Today’s Action

When it comes to environment, a well-designed page around great video content can make an ad stand out. Great design and content can even facilitate a user’s ability to actively engage with an ad. But, an ad-cluttered page, or bad video content, will dilute the intended message and can derail a campaign.

In addition, there are few things worse to an ad than being published before offensive adjacent content. A sportswear retailer can reach its audience at scale, across devices, and achieve high reach by targeting sports fans on a premium sports website, or it could end up on a profane low-budget sports blog. If the retailer targets users based on audience alone, mistakenly, one would conclude that both websites offer equal value. However, when we consider each environment’s impact on an ad, we know that the value is not the same.

Right Person + Right Place + Right Time = True Effective Advertising Value

Sherrill Mane of the IAB recently called for a standardization of the digital gross rating point (GRP) across all screens. However, for the digital GRP to be effective, the right place is also a critical part of the equation. A successful strategy ensures that ads are shown on pages that are brand safe, well designed, without ad clutter, and free of offensive content. Viewing habits are changing, and we need to remember to take into account how these changes are affecting the environment that people view ads and take action.

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