When Melissa Gluck Published her November 20th article 5 Signs its Time to Fire Your Ad Network in iMediaConnection, I was sure we would hear about some of the recent big block debacles like when a major advertiser’s ads, which were run across TACODA’s network, showed up on YouTube in association with racey content. This scenario resulted in the major advertiser having their high quality ads displayed in conjunction with tasteless consumer generated media. Not to say that everything on YouTube is tasteless, because it isn’t. But these instances were associated with racy content and TACODA apparently did not exercise any controls when running their clients’ ads across the YouTube network when they first introduced YouTube into the TACODA network. The point is that when running on a network, an advertiser does not always have control over where their messages will appear. In this instance the advertiser found out after the fact and, of course, the ad was later pulled.
Revenue doesn’t correlate
Melissa begins to introduce the idea of revenue based on performance factors like CPA, CPA, lead-gen and post-click results. In an earlier post, Make Your Media Buy More Effective – But How? I discussed Brad Bender’s iMediaConnection article on Make Your Media Buy More Effective in which he presents the idea of sharing your media goals with a site or network. Perhaps what Melissa is missing is the concept of shoring up your goals. If you can define a set of goals and then communicate to the network what your defined metrics of success are, then the network knows where they need to be to perform. At least then if they don’t hit the mark, you have a baseline for discussion in terms of ‘firing them.’
When you conduct media buying on a network, treat it for what it is … secondary and tertiary inventory. You are not buying on a site directly and therefore you need to exercise some strategy to acquire the better, of less-quality inventory. The lower-dollar CPMs can be balanced with some targeting – GEO for one is a simple means to keep in domestic. Insist on it. Then use something simple like Google Analytics to track and confirm it.
I think Melissa is making a good and obvious point. Networks need to be closely monitored. You are dealing with the redistributors here and therefore need to look over their shoulders. When you require counter measures like GEO, frequency caps, Behavioral targeting, storyboarding, etc, check your CPMs. You may be better off buying on sites directly where you get the better inventory. Not all networks pay off. Granted the top-tiers like Bluestreak, TribalFusion and 24/7 will perform for you, but there are plenty of lower-tier networks that are really meant for the CPC, CPA buys.
Lack of Transparency and Accountability
There is a very simply solution to this problem. And it is one that seems to only be practiced by smaller more aggressive firms. Negotiate your buys based off of your ad server’s numbers. Make it your agency’s policy and stick with it. You will get flack for it but plenty of agencies get away with it all of the time. Networks will require testing of the ad server but it happens all of the time. For example, Burst network insisted on testing TruEffect because an agency insisted on paying off our numbers. They said that DoubleClick was within 6% of their numbers and that the average was less than 10%. At the end of the test, TruEffect deviated by 1.79%. Now that agency pays Burst all of its bills off of TruEffect’s numbers. Give that a shot.
Improper Click Attribution
This is tougher, but also possible to overcome. An ad server can assign a unique tag to each network and site that displays an ad or has a click-tag. This will allow for a unique identifier for the subsequent cookie which will track back to the lead.
If the advertiser user DirectServe, first party ad serving from TruEffect, then each time a banner is served the site and banner serve can be written into the cookie in sequential order and then, when the unique user arrives on the home page by direct means as a view-through (i.e. they come through the home page on their own) they can be attributed back to the last banner they saw on the last site they visited) The last site responsible for touching the user is the one that will get credit for the lead using DirectServe.
You see Melissa’s article did a great job for setting up five evaluative criteria for determining when a network should be fired. But what needs to be taken into consideration is why people are using networks. Networks should be aggressively managed not held to a test and left out to dry or fired. They need to be told how to perform and most of them will – especially if you budget warrants response.
Agencies and advertiser generally use networks for two reasons. (1) to get direct response results (CPC, CPA leads) under which case they are less concerned with inventory quality and more concerned with lead volume, or (2) low dollar high volume impressions advertising. The former is not what Melissa was addressing. The latter is what she was focusing. When you look at those people you have to ask yourself why they are buying on a network.
Bottom line it is a matter of efficiency and speed. Network buys for impressions is budget-filler and not primary to the buy initiative. It is not intended to be primary strategy of a media campaign. At least it shouldn’t be. Direct buys are where the thoughtful buyer will focus and networks are where the secondary effort will go to fill in the gaps.
Melissa’s comments and the additional information provided to you in this post should be taken as a good way to plan, utilize and evaluate your network relationship in context.
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