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'Engaged time' gets a boost

News, 24 September 2015

NEW YORK: The Financial Times is aiming to significantly increase the proportion of digital ads it sells on the basis of time-spent, following a trial which demonstrated that brand consideration was more than 50% higher for such campaigns.

The business newspaper has so far run a total of 17 campaigns across 13 clients, who only pay if their ad is in view for five seconds or longer; these have contributed an incremental $2.2m in revenue.

Digiday reported the findings of an internal analysis of six ad campaigns bought on a cost-per-hour basis: these scored 58% higher in brand consideration than the same ads when seen for less than five seconds. Ad recall rose 79% and brand awareness 71%.

"It reinforces our thinking that the longer time you spend with a message, the more impactful it's going to be," said Brendan Spain, US commercial director at the FT.

"One of the main learnings is, if marketers have something important to say on a digital platform to an engaged audience, focusing on impressions isn't the best way to deliver that message," he added.

Cost-per-hour currently represents 7% of impressions served by the FT, but Spain is aiming to boost that to 30% in 2016.

There are several major obstacles to overcome, however, before the idea of engaged time gains wider acceptance.

One is simply that click-through rates maintain a stubborn hold on marketers' thinking, as they continue to be a common KPI despite being increasingly discredited as a measure of online effectiveness.

Another is a legacy of that thinking. "The hurdle we all have to clear is the buying process … rewiring the whole process that's been set up around CPM," said Marc Guldimann, CEO of ad tech company Sled, explaining that the big agency holding companies all have "monolithic systems" in place.

Or, as Spain put it: "There's not a place on the spreadsheet for cost per hour."

Their emphasis was on 100% viewability rather than how long an ad was in view, he said, although he also noted that clients were more open to the idea than agencies.

Data sourced from Digiday; additional content by Warc staff