Nearly a third of online ads are wasted says survey – it’s almost like the bad old days of Lord Leverhulme

31 per cent of online ads are never seen by anyone according to a new survey by comScore, which is a bit of a blow considering that online advertising is growing like topsy, set to overtake print and hit $40bn in the US alone according to another new survey by eMarketer.

So that means that some $12bn plus is going straight down the drain just in the US, presumably. At least with print someone sees it, if only the printer.

This takes you right back to the days of 19th century soap magnate Lord Leverhulme (even before our time and, indeed, the internet) who is supposed to have remarked that “I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted, but I’m not sure which half.” Which is exactly the problem that online advertising was supposed to solve.

ComScore partnered with big advertisers including Allstate, Chrysler, Ford, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kimberly Clark, Kraft and Sprint to assess 12 brand campaigns, spanning 3,000 placements, 381,000 domains and 1.7bn impressions.

It found that 69 per cent of impressions were usually ‘in-view’, defined as meeting industry guidelines which recommend that at least 50 per cent of an ad must be ‘viewable’ for a minimum of one second. Which doesn’t sound too testing. But 31 per cent didn’t even surmount this not very testing hurdle.

Online media owners are trying to put a brave face on the findings. “It is critical that we can understand the extent to which ads delivered on our sites are actually viewed by the intended audience. This type of insight allows us to improve our relationships with consumers and our advertising partners,” says Scott McDonald of Condé Nast.

Not half.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.