Not all ad networks lie

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, 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.

Interesting MediaPost Blog – “Team Publishing: Stop Whining”

Many interesting points raised in this recent MediaPost Blog.  Certainly an interesting take on one of the reasons for the current predominance of DR over Branding in online advertising and I agree wholeheartedly that online display ads are a far better branding medium than it’s currently fashionable to believe.  (I found myself thinking, “AMEN!” as I read that paragraph.  Well put.)

I also agree that the more compelling the creative opportunities for brand marketers the better, as long as a standard approach can be developed.  I’m not sure that the tethered ad approach that’s recommended is the right solution, but that doesn’t detract from the argument against clutter.  A publisher choosing to go to with 100% tethered ads would likely execute that choice operationally the same way they would execute any other new ad unit, so the real question is, “What’s the most effective ad unit for brand marketers?”.  Certainly a worthwhile question.  Would also point out that networks as whole wouldn’t necessarily lose in the scenario outlined.  Many certainly would if the new unit was less effective (lower ROI) for DR campaigns, but Brand marketers and Branding-focused ad networks would welcome any new standard unit that improved results for online branding.

Forrester Report: Ad Networks for Brand Advertisers

I was happy to see was recommended in a recent recent research report from Forrester Research entitled “Ad Networks for Brand Advertisers”.  Forrester’s research suggests that as brand marketers focus on doing more with less, Brand-focused ad networks are a good solution driving increased efficiency and decreased cost without sacrificing quality or control.  The note is fairly brief, but includes some valuable advice for online brand marketers evaluating networks.  In particular,  Forrester recommends careful vetting of potential network partners.  In a crowded ad network market it’s important to separate the networks that can deliver against complex brand requirements from those with more DR-focused capabilities.  Good advice.

The summary of the report is available here.

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