54% Does Not Constitute “Most”…And Other Cautionary Online Tales.

In a recent blog post on digital marketing industry insider site MarketingVOX, a headline loudly and proudly proclaimed, “comScore: Most Display Ads Invisible.”

Under this dramatic headline, there sat a series of bullet points. The first bullet point read, “The Wall Street Journal ($) reports from comScore data that most display ads don’t get seen.”

Clicking on the word “reports” in that bullet point then took the reader directly to the Wall Street Journal story, whose headline read, “Web Display Ads Often Not Visible.

Dig even deeper and read the Wall Street Journal story, and you’ll learn that the comScore study shows that “An astounding 54% of online display ads…weren’t seen by anyone.”

Obviously, “Web Display Ads Often Not Visible” is not the same thing as “Most Display Ads Invisible.”

And furthermore, there is a distinct difference between “invisible” and “don’t get seen”…or “weren’t seen by anyone.”

And finally, “most” is not nearly the same thing as “54%,” which, again is the percentage of display ads that “weren’t seen by anyone,” according to comScore study that was cited in the Wall Street Journal story.

In fact, 54% is just a hair over “half”…and if “half” was considered the same thing as “most” by, say, your local bank, then the number of millionaires in America would skyrocket overnight. And maybe our economy would even be magically cured.

Yet, there it is, in all its glory in that MarketingVOX headline:

“comScore: Most Display Ads Invisible.”

And, again, in the following bullet point:

“The Wall Street Journal reports from comScore data that most display ads don’t get seen.”

One has to wonder if word ever got back to either The Wall Street Journal or comScore that MarketingVOX was putting a hyper-dramatic spin on their cold, hard data.

And like any good story, there’s also another layer to this particular game of “online telephone” regarding the comScore study.

In short, so what if a bit over half (or even “most”) of all display ads “weren’t seen by everyone”…or even if they were rendered completely “invisible” somehow?

After all, what’s the number of traditional outdoor banners and billboards that go unseen each and every day? If you’re driving down the freeway, or lounging down at the beach, how often do you truly observe (or absorb) something like an airplane banner ad or a hanging billboard?

Or what about TV spots? Especially in 2013, in the age of the DVR. Chances are, if you’re watching anything but a live event such as a baseball game or awards show (and even then…), you’re going to be reaching for that “fast forward” button on the DVR remote when you see a commercial break coming up – faster than you can say, “comScore.”

Of course, we also have the time-honored tradition of banner ad-bashing to consider here. Here at the official Amplitude Digital blog, we’ve taken a closer look before at this tendency to trash all things banner-ad related – and why it’s generally unwise and reactionary to do so.

The moral of the story here? Always be aware of people’s biases and prejudices…both in digital marketing circles and in life as a whole. Confirmation bias is a very real thing.

Oh, and don’t believe everything you read. Especially if you happen to read it on the internet. In particular, don’t blindly believe any Albert Einstein or Buddha quotes you might find on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook…especially if they’re quotes about, say, Twitter and Facebook.

You also might want to think long and hard about who you enter into a love relationship with online. Even if you’re, say, a star linebacker for The University of Notre Dame.

What do you think? Do you have any amusing and/or alarming tales of confusion when it comes to reporting on data and trends in digital marketing? Or anything else internet-scam related you’d like to share with us?

If so, feel free to comment below this blog post. We’d love to hear from you.

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