In the Wake of Irene, Does a Lesson in Digital Advertising Surface?

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This week begins in recovery mode for the East Coast. After ripping through the Eastern seaboard, Irene has left quite a mess for many to clean up. Our thoughts are with those affected by the storm as they strive to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives.

Concurrently, those of us not directly impacted by Irene’s devastation couldn’t resist questioning how events like this may affect the digital advertising industry…

Yesterday morning, one of our analysts came into the marketing room looking for theories on how Irene may have impacted our business. She posed the question: “Do you think impressions and clicks were up or down this weekend throughout the states affected by Irene, and why?”

Answers spanned the masses, everyone had a different opinion they stood ready to back-up. Keep in mind, many lost power. So the question then becomes: How could they browse the web?

Here’s my theory: Impressions go up and clicks go down. Why?

With respect to impressions during a storm of Irene’s magnitude, I assume most people are doing one of two things 1) desperately seeking out as much information on the storm as possible or 2) aimlessly browsing for something, anything, to do after being confined to their homes for hours on end and bored to tears. The first argument against this is that people in the storm path will opt for TV, not the internet, for information. I know I did until my cable TV signal became a victim to the storm and was lost. The second argument is that many who did lose power wouldn’t have access to the Internet. However, with cell phones and a wide variety of tablet devices, I’d argue that internet usage is still widely accessible, even during a power outage.

Up next is the click conversation. I’d speculate click through rates drop. Again, my logic is simple. People browsing for storm information will not click on ads because they are simply too focused on gathering as much of the information they seek as humanly possible. Sure, a ton of arguments can be presented but I stand by this logic.

So what was the verdict? Well, anecdotally from our own Undertone Ad Server (UAS), I was correct about impressions and incorrect about clicks. Both impressions and clicks went up. And, both were up by double-digit percentages. Interesting…

In the end, nothing I’ve stated is more than one opinion or observation. I hope and expect that comScore or another provider will do full-blown analysis like the one they did last week following the East Coast earthquake, Internet Seismometer Off the Charts from Yesterday’s Quake.

I look forward to validation or contradiction to my observations here.

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