What’s The Value of an Impression?

Today we are inundated with media—be it through the media we deliberately choose to consume or the ads that surround our daily life. Because of this constant exposure, we inherently prioritize and regard each media differently—based on our personal preferences and our attitude at the time, the time of day, and many other variables difficult to quantify and actively perceive.

Because of this deft prioritization, we can no longer think of media impressions as being completely analogous to one another. The way in which you consume Facebook is different from the way you consume a newspaper, both of which are different from the way you consume radio and definitely different from the way you consume a poster on the subway platform. In today’s landscape, not only does the message have to fit these crowded mediums, we need to also consider the impact of the impression, in order to get a full scope of performance.

For example, a Facebook mobile video view of 3 seconds (counted as a view by Facebook’s reporting standards) does not make the same impact as a 30 second view on a 55 inch TV screen. 10M impressions of online banner ads are not as impactful as a Times Square Billboard seen by hundreds of thousands of people per day.

According to a 2,100 person Harris poll, the study confirmed that channel of advertisement can be as important as content for consumers. Nearly half of all Americans (48 percent) said that TV advertisements are the most effective in persuading them to buy a company’s products. Print advertisements ranked second (38 percent), followed by email (35 percent), social media (22 percent), radio (15 percent), mobile (12 percent), internet banner ads (9 percent), and SMS/Text message (7 percent). These percentages shift by age group, but the rankings remain the same across groups.

In order to take this impact into consideration, we need to start using metrics like CPM, but enhanced to properly account for potential impact. We need to start applying the correct weights to media impressions, similar to how we weight political polls by the state’s or the nation’s demographics to be better representative of the full landscape. Weighting is just adjusting to better represent the entire population, rather than taking things at face value.

This won’t completely solve the problem, but it will be an additional tool to help us make smarter decisions by considering media holistically and fairly. The media landscape is complex and therefore it demands complex thinking. Looking at just total impressions or just total clicks is too simplistic for 2016.