Think of it: How long is a second? Take a look at your watch and observe. That is the length of time that defines viewability in the impression-based world of advertising — and then users only have to see half of the banner. 

Until now, digital ad sales have solely been based on impressions and clicks, and quality has been defined by the concept of viewability. We wanted to challenge that at Ekstra Bladet, part of JP/Politikens Hus (Denmark’s biggest privately-held publishing group).

With users spending more than five minutes per session and ekstrabladet.dk — representing more than half of the total time spent on Danish commercial news sites — we had the ideal basis for introducing user engagement and time as a new metric.

This is important because advertiser needs vary greatly. Some advertisers have ads that are simple to decode, while others are more complex and require more time. We wanted to guarantee advertisers an appropriate amount of active and engaged time with individual users to communicate their message.

By doing so, we wanted to introduce a new currency that shifts the value from impressions to time. Secondly, we wanted to focus on true viewable formats and ultimately offer a better user experience. And finally, we wanted to offer new opportunities for ad buyers to spend time with the users.

Ekstra Bladet shifts online advertising measurements from impressions to user engagement.
Ekstra Bladet shifts online advertising measurements from impressions to user engagement.

Based on these goals and the pioneering work of Financial Times and The Economist, we developed the “Guaranteed Time” product.

Here we combine effective time slots with ad reload to optimise high quality, time-based inventory and ensure that a user views an impression. We do that by showing an ad within a guaranteed time slot of 20 seconds of active and engaged time, before it is replaced by a new ad. In this model, the user must show activity by scrolling or moving the mouse.

Since the launch of Guaranteed Time, we have sold and delivered more than 30 campaigns. Based on ad server data, technical analytics, and in-depth analyses carried out in collaboration with media agencies and advertisers across industry sectors, we have found that there is a clear correlation between time and campaign efficiency. 

The most significant raise in effect happens after five seconds, when we see significantly higher levels of ad recall, ad relevance, preference, brand perception, and intention to seek more information about the product. In addition, we see an increased effect of further engaged time — although this diminishes after a certain threshold of time, depending on complexity of campaign and message.

We use the MRC accredited metrics of effective time slots and frequency to verify and document the Guaranteed Time product. This effectively represents the new digital currency we wanted to create: a digital currency based on time metrics such as engaged time, viewable impressions, and users.

Guaranteed Time offers Ekstra Bladet advertisers a better way to measure audience engagement.
Guaranteed Time offers Ekstra Bladet advertisers a better way to measure audience engagement.

By focusing on engaged time instead of viewability and impressions, time-based advertising creates more transparency and lifts the concept of quality to a more useful level for advertisers — by focusing on the actual time a consumer spends with a brand.

Our next step is to add a series of data points with which Guaranteed Time campaigns can be enriched, as well as to launch the product on mobile platforms.