Another anti-ad network screed from Ari Rosenberg yesterday on mediapost. I sincerely appreciate his passion on this issue, but I respectfully disagree.
He’s absolutely right that lots of ad networks lie. Way too many for my taste frankly, but certainly not all of them. For example, Brand.net takes our commitment to preventing channel conflict with our publisher partners very seriously. We have to or we would not continue to be able access the best inventory on the web for our clients. Every conversation we have, we conduct as if there were 3 parties in the room: Advertiser, Publisher and Us. No wink, no nudge, no lying. We sometimes lose sales to other networks because of our principled approach to this critical issue, but our SafeScreen page-level filtering technology provides a level of content safety not available from other networks – blind or otherwise – and most clients understand that.
I think we all need to recognize that agencies are looking for efficiency for some portion of their overall buying activity. I am not just talking about pricing. Buying 50 (or even 5) sites through a network is dramatically more efficient from an operational perspective than buying those sites individually. There’s no way around it. Think of TV buying without national networks. The media market has changed since 2003 when Ari left IGN. There’s a reason why networks exist and that reason isn’t going away; some portion of ad budgets will continue to seek efficiency. Publishers can successfully mitigate channel conflict while still accessing these budgets by requiring networks to be blind and implementing a few other simple policies which I laid out in a byline earlier this year.
The typical publisher CEO is pushing her VP sales to use networks because she intuitively understands all of this. Not every VP Sales is going to cheer about adding a sales channel that puts pressure on his team. Just like not every print division GM for a newspaper is going to be excited that he can’t buy a new printing press because the company is investing in the web publishing effort. Lack of excitement within one constituency doesn’t mean a particular decision is bad for the company. It’s the CEO’s job to maximize long-term profitability for shareholders, not to maximize near-term revenue generated by one sales channel or business line. That said, I think Ari might be surprised by the number of sales leaders I meet that think like CEOs.