The math of digital display campaigns

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Here’s a math equation for you, let me know if you think I’m confused:

$5 is more expensive than $9.

Got it? You hand me five dollars, and it will cost you more than if you hand me nine Mr. Washingtons.


Let me explain.

Many providers of digital advertisements will charge you somewhere between $5 and $9 per thousand ads to show your local display ad. These ads work – fantastically. You capture an audience that is focused, and in a place to act (often sitting at their desk at work or at home).

But where are those ad impressions going to show? Are they going to show at all?

Here’s a tip: always make sure you require that your ad be shown above the fold. While that newspaper term is a little old-fashioned – it captures a simple concept: you want your ad to show on the top part of a website – not below the “fold” or scroll line. Why? Because chances are your ad isn’t going to be seen. Some sites will run three, four – even five ads in the right column – stacked up, or spread out from the top to the bottom. The only ad unit that is guaranteed to be seen is the top one.

So back to the math.

Let’s say Website A charges you $9 per thousand ads – but guarantees the message will run “ATF” or above the fold. That means that the vast majority of your impressions will be seen by a human being.

Website B will cut you a heck of a deal – just $5 per thousand ads. But they carry three ad units in the right hand column of their site – and only 1/3rd of your ads will show above the fold. That means your $5 worth of ads is only guaranteed to be seen by human eyes 333 times.

Website A – $9 for 1,000 impressions.
Website B – $5 for 333 impressions.

Simple math shows that you are really paying $15 to get 1,000 guaranteed impressions.

Now, some of those below the fold ad units will be seen – but on the home and landing pages, the vast majority of users don’t scroll very much. Also, once a user takes an action like scrolling, they are less likely to see your ad message.

If you’re a local advertiser looking to make your dollar go as far as you can – either buy sites that only place your ads above the fold, or require that site to run your ads above the fold.

(Disclosure: Don Day is the digital sales & product manager for KTVB.COM).