Where’s the Digital Tear Sheet?

Tear sheet

Digital advertising is a mess. Your ads aren’t likely to be seen because:

Further, nobody really knows the size of the circulation.

Take, for example, the recent controversy over the size of Business Insider’s “audiences” (a BS trigger word). BI claims their audience is 5X that measured by comScore. Nobody knows who’s right, although I’m more likely to trust a third party like comScore. I’ll bet a dollar that the actual Business Insider audience of real human beings  is well under half what comScore says.*

So you don’t know exactly the circulation size while more of your money is being spirited away by the technology involved to run all these ads. According to the IAB, only 45% of your media buy is going to publishers for working media, with the remainder siphoned away by an un-understandable advertising ecosystem.

In the meantime, nobody can produce the equivalent of a digital tear sheet. Remember those? Back in the day, no invoice got paid without physical proof that the ad ran where it was supposed to. Was the tear sheet a guarantee the ad was ever seen by a human and not relegated to fish wrap? Of course not. However, the publications were audited (ABC or BPA), so you knew the size of the circulation. And you had physical evidence that the ad at least ran.

Marketing: The Magpie profession

Marketing: The Magpie Profession

Try this sometime–ask your agencies to produce verifiable evidence that each and every impression actually ran. (Server logs or other digital ephemera don’t count).  In other words, ask for a tear sheet before you pay any bills. The online advertising business as a whole is just not prepared to provide what marketers should insist on, for each and every ad run. Why? It’s our (marketers) fault.

As marketers, we suffer from neomania and are easily distracted by shiny new technology, much like magpies. Doing the heavy lifting of ensuring advertising delivery isn’t new, exciting or worthy of a panel talk at a conference. A whole industry has developed to take advantage of our failings.

The funny thing is, digital advertising works. I have no question. I just wonder how much more we’d invest in various digital media if we didn’t have so much of our money and effort siphoned away by adtech.

Takeaway: As marketers, we have to get better in holding the digital advertising world accountable for proving that our impressions are shown to humans. We need the equivalent of a digital tear sheet, not more technology.

*Of interest is that on January 9, 2013, BI was proudly trumpeting 23MM monthly uniques. Interesting how the growth exploded after the acquisition by Axel Springer. Can anybody smell an earn-out here?

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2 Responses to Where’s the Digital Tear Sheet?

  1. tmattoneill says:

    Hi there! Just thought I’d share The Media Trust with you. They’ve been doing online tear sheets since 2005. Verified, timestamped, and watermarked. Check it out: https://www.themediatrust.com/ad-verification.php

    Liked by 1 person

  2. markpilip says:

    Thanks Matt. Interesting–I’ve never come across them even though the local office is down the street. I’ll contact them today.


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