One of the themes of the Keynote by Adam Symson, EVP of Interactive at E.W. Scripps Television Group was bringing quality and marketing principles into online marketing (you can see more details of his presentation on my post on the adclub blog).
The Problem with Ad Networks: Quality
Being from Scripps, which owns a number of localized media properties, the bias of the presentation was obvious from the beginning:
- Advertise with local sites
- They are high quality and targeted
- Ad Networks are low quality
- The big guys can’t target like us
Ad networks obviously present inefficiencies and let’s face it: you get what you pay for. So, you can go with an ad network, pay a lower CMP and have less control, or pay more for niche content. In my opinion this isn’t necessarily a local vs. ad network debate but more of a targeting discussion – you pay more to better target your ads. Ad networks aren’t always the most targeted, so they are cheaper but you run the risk of your ad not being the most targeted.
This reminded me of a panel I covered at at ad:tech about monetizing the long-tail. The real issue with the ad network vs. niche debate is about finding solutions to the inefficiencies with the ad networks. Buying and placing ads online needs to be easy – advertisers need an efficient way to buy across multiple sites. That is the issue. The solution: Technology. The industry needs technological solutions to improve the efficiencies of ad networks (which will over time drive up CMPs).
Google is a good stage 1 example. They crawl the content of the page to determine what the page is about and then serve up relevant ads. We need more technology innovators in the space to increase the effectiveness of mass buys across smaller publications.
I Can Haz Marketing Objectives?
The bulk of online marketing focuses on lead generation campaigns – pay per click and search. Over 40% of online dollars are spent on search, which makes sense since consumers online are showing a lesser propensity to be interrupted by brand marketers. But, as Adam pointed out, how do you run a branding or awareness campaign using search? The answer? You don’t. This is why “an impression is still an impression”. There is value in an impression (awareness perhaps?) and the right tools need to be used for the right marketing objectives.
I agree with Adam, there is definitely a need to maintain quality in marketing online – as a young medium the industry still has a lot of learning to do. Look at TV commercials from the 60s – there were a minute long, often lack a clear benefit and don’t use most of the tactics that we now know drive recall and awareness and all sorts of other marketing goodness. Quality of impressions isn’t top of mind online because in traditional media it is measured by the demographics watching a certain TV show, and the network content follows the same standards (ie. no swearing, nudity, etc). The internet is still “the wild, wild west” and finding the right audience is much more difficult with a larger sea of options and relatively few standards.
Part of the issue is measurement. Since we can measure clicks and impressions they have turned into the main metrics for judging online effectiveness, especially for companies with small analytics budgets. We need to continue to build relevant and robust measurements. I mean, who would have though that you could tell how many people went to the store and bought Tide because they saw a commercial? Who would have thought that you could quantitatively tell how much a TV ad makes someone love your product? We couldn’t always, but we learned over decades of perfecting our messaging.
What say you?
We need to continue to learn with online and perfect both the way we use it – everything from buying, format, copy, etc – and the way we measure it. What are your thoughts? How do we continue to ensure quality online and bring quality to advertising online?