Online advertising: If you’re buying on YouTube and Facebook, read this

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Online advertising- not worth the paper it’s printed on. Or so say dissenting voices everywhere from printed media to the ad industry itself.

For years the argument has been that banners and pop ups on websites are not as valuable or effective as placing a half or full page in a magazine or newspaper. The logic ranges from the more recent introduction of ad blocking software- completely eradicating many online commercials from the public eye- to the idea of product ownership; we buy a print title and therefore feel part of that community. Digital equivalents are, quite literally, a free-for-all.

This attitude has caused many problems, not least leading to the press having a gaping hole in finances as print readership declines, and online revenue streams fail to meet the demands of running a professional operation. Tracking adverts, and the rate of conversion into sales, has helped keep the cost to advertisers low- they know how many purchasing journeys originate from specific websites, and this dictates how much is paid for that advertising space.

Of course this doesn’t take into consideration the delay between seeing something and buying it, which can be anything from ten minutes to a week or so. We don’t always shop compulsively, yet we do remember good adverts days after we see them, particularly if the product is appealing.

It’s a real quagmire of a quandary. Add to this the YouTube debacle we have written about extensively– which has seen several major advertising powerhouses pull investment in the platform for fear they may be inadvertently funding extremism- not to mention Facebook video mistruths, whereby the figures for completed views were shown to be inflated, meaning advertisers were spending more than they needed to, and you can only reach one conclusion. The last thing online advertising needs is another kick in the teeth. Or indeed face.

 

Introducing the iron boot (sort of)

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Sadly that’s exactly what has just happened with the announcement of a new Channel 4 study on media performance. According to the survey, Facebook and YouTube adverts are significantly less effective than those placed on broadcaster Video On Demand services, such as 4OD and ITV Player.

Needless to say, Channel 4 has a vested interest in promoting commercial spend it will directly benefit from. Nevertheless, the conclusions are hard to ignore. Advertisers will spend 20% more running campaigns on Facebook and YouTube compared with VoD services when the ‘real cost’ is taken into account, mainly because even when people allow an entire ad to play on social media, they do so in ‘an environment where viewers are more distracted from content, or not watching at all’. 53% of YouTube viewers are said to be in an attentive state, for example, compared with 83% of the VoD audience.

 

Isn’t VoD still online advertising though?

Well, yes, technically, but it forms a sector of its own really, and YouTube (along with its owner Google) and Facebook claimed 75% of all online advertising spend in the world by 2015, if this article in the Financial Times last year was accurate. That dominance has increased since then, meaning any criticism aimed at these behemoths automatically paints the entire online ad world in a negative light.

 

 

So what are you suggesting?

To be clear, we’re not actually suggesting much. Trying to argue against buying space on any social network, or indeed any platform, is illogical- every brand and every campaign is different, what works for one may not work for others, both in terms of concept and platform. But what we are saying is that despite ongoing headlines about the ever-increasing amount of money being given to Facebook and YouTube for commercial space, it’s vital to be fully aware of the overall landscape, and understand that there may be other viable alternatives out there offering better results.