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To Be or Not to Be an Online Ad

Amateur film maker Dan Burke, at his Dayton, Ohio home, recreates a scene where he brushed his teeth with ketchup for a Heinz ketchup commercial contest on YouTube.
Amateur film maker Dan Burke, at his Dayton, Ohio home, recreates a scene where he brushed his teeth with ketchup for a Heinz ketchup commercial contest on YouTube.Photograph by AJ Mast/The New York Times/Redux

The online advertising industry—with all its data on who people are and what they like to buy—is a sophisticated animal … sometimes. At other times, it looks an awful lot like a gangly adolescent trying to figure out its place in the world.

This week, for example, I was told that some folks in the industry had reached an unofficial consensus around what it takes for an online ad to be “viewed.” Put another way, they’ve figured out what an ad has to accomplish before someone leaves a Web page in order for it actually to be considered an ad with a chance of influencing a person. The answer: At least 50 percent of the ad must be visible on a person’s screen for at least 1 second. (This does not strike me as a particularly high bar. A true, standardized metric is expected to arrive from the advertising industry next year, which may be more demanding.)