Archive for the ‘Ad Networks’ Category
And yet they still cannot seem to get the performance out them they expect. That is because they do not understand what they are buying. They are missing what is the value. They think it is a new technology, and it is NOT the technology.
Yahoo buys InterClick for $280 Million
MAGY (AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google) keep buying Ad-Networks, and then the ad-network doesn’t pan out. And then they buy another one, and another. All of these ad-networks have some unique technology . And they keep scratching their heads how this ad-network that was making so much money, and so profitable just doesn’t seem to perform as well after they buy it. And they actually blame themselves; they didn’t “integrate” it properly.
And they all seem to miss what they are buying. And they continue to scratch their heads, and repeat this over and over.
Why? Because they are technology companies thinking that they are buying technology… and they are not.
They are buying a sales force, one that can sell. And then that sales force leaves because they just made “bank” and do not want to work for a bunch of also-rans in company X that bought them, under sales people who do not know how to sell, which is the reason they had to buy them in the first place.
And the star sales people leave, migrate to a new Ad Network which is “suddenly” the next great technology.
Quit thinking you are buying technology at ad networks, and do an end around and scoop up top sales staff instead. Give them a sick commission with golden handcuffs. It is a hell of a lot cheaper.
But alas, they are technology companies and seem to miss the obvious. It’s the people stupid.
ranty rant signing off…
Your view of ad networks and the banners they sling all depends on where you sit in the marketing landscape of the consumer, the agency, the client, the creative and, yes, even our industry.
Ad networks are an insidious evil that have perpetrated our industry. They are a viral, exploding business model that fills our world with more annoying drivel fired at us one 30k banner at a time. It’s the business equivalent of a massive outdoor flea market. It’s eBay for display advertising. OK, OK… I’ll calm down.
Ad networks are causing some profound changes to the advertising landscape. Is it their fault that we’re stuck with the banner? No, of course not. It’s our fault. We all stopped doing truly innovative advertising online. Publishers became locked in their designs, and sites became so expensive to modify with ever-expanding and more technical infrastructures, that we all got stuck in a system.
The agencies and the clients have produced so many ads at specific formats and requirements that any new format has a massive uphill battle. We’ve built a banner infrastructure. Getting out of it may be as difficult as reducing our dependence on oil. You could create the greatest human transportation device in the world, one that runs on electricity, that allows almost 30 percent of the entire U.S. population to commute back and forth to work, but if you couldn’t use it when it was raining, and if cities banned their use on sidewalks or roads, it wouldn’t work. We’re mired in the same atrophied place online.
So what changed over the last three years in online advertising and why is it worse than ever? Why does it seem like the quality of advertising online is going down at an ever alarming rate? Ad networks.
Again, it is not their fault, it’s what they’ve enabled that has created the current situation. The web grew too fast. Our consumption of online content grew too fast. And there is still not a model other than advertising that really pays for it all. More and more pages are viewed, and yet there just isn’t enough advertising at premium prices to fill the space. Thirty percent of consumption and only 6 percent of advertising spending is done online. That’s basic market economics. Too much supply, too little demand, prices plummet.
Enter the ad network to fill that void of billions and billions of ad impressions. The sales staffs at the larger sites could not possibly service all the potential clients, and the smaller sites with minimal traffic didn’t have a sales staff. What we ended up with is blinky-blinky horrific eye-piercing creative to break through the clutter. Aesthetics went out the window. Our world became a direct response monster. The last time it happened was with Google AdWords. That revolution helped bring an effective advertising vehicle to the hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country, and the world. The difference this time? Well, it’s fairly difficult for any business to truly make something in AdWords look horrific. But banners? Oh, the horror!
It is, however, the ad networks that are going to save our industry, at least until we figure out how to really impact consumers online, and impact them in a way that is not custom ad creation, but a standardized format that is relatively easy to create, easy for clients to understand, and easy to measure.
Uh, yeah, we are so not there yet, are we? But when we do get there, ad networks will be the delivery mechanism for that creative. The ad servers will dish them out, but it’s the ad networks that will be the nation’s entry ramp. They are steadily becoming the backbone of our whole online ad delivery system. Until then, though, I’m stuck with the banner. We are all stuck with the banner — the stupid moving pixel monstrosity.
The agencies and brands that do online advertising will someday have the budgets to create meaningful creative, with advertising agencies on retainer, internal staff to run marketing, and digital strategists who understand the medium. They will be able to attack social media, sponsorships and get away from the banner ad. But right now, they have AdWords, and they are hungry for more.
Banners? The consumer hates them, the creatives abhor them, but the clients love them, the agency makes a profit on them, and our entire industry benefits from them. Your view of ad networks and the banners they sling all depends on where you sit in the marketing landscape of the consumer, the agency, the client, the creative and, yes, even our industry.
Let’s face it, the consumer wants everything, doesn’t want to pay for it, and doesn’t want to be annoyed in the process. The proliferation of banner advertising enabled by ad networks is not something they enjoy. In fact, if they actually knew who all of you were, they would start campaigns against you. Luckily, the consumer has started to get numbed-out by the whole banner experience anyway. There are just so many that they all blend into the background, which really, if you think about it, is doing none of us any good. We’re still throwing a thousand pennies at the consumer hoping one gets lodged in their skin. Have you ever had someone throw a thousand pennies at you one at a time? Try it. It’s really annoying. But eventually you just start to let them bounce off of you and go on about your business. That is the current state of banner advertising. Don’t believe me? Name one banner ad that you didn’t create that you remember. OK, now another, and another. Now, name some television commercials. Easy wasn’t it?
Ah, crap, people like me. The copywriter and the creative director in me just wants to create something magical, something aesthetically pleasing that I can be proud of, puff up like a peacock and say, “I did that! Now all bow down to me and bask in my glory.” Uh, yeah, that doesn’t happen. However, it once did. You still see traditional creatives point to that 30-second work of art they created while sipping a martini at a bar, pointing to the screen in response to the question, “What do you do?”
My friends, colleagues, and everyone else who now hates me for pointing out that they now work in a business that slings droll banality at people all day in a bygone era of advertising — those days are not coming back. There used to be real writers who were copywriters. They wrote books and articles, and not on advertising, but on life. They had the ability to make words that would move you, twist the subtle innuendoes and cascading eloquence until you cried. Have you ever cried at a Google AdSense ad?
Be it traditional or online, the agency knows the transition has reached the tipping point for online. Agency management loves the banner; it is probably one of their most profitable areas of online advertising. Creative agencies have long had the SEO and SEM programs stripped from them and put into the hands of specialists. Site creation is often done by someone else, and even if it’s created by them, it’s managed internally by the client. What a lot of online agencies are left with from a creative standpoint is the banner. Oh sure, they’ll be able to sell them on an occasional microsite that does the client no good, but at least it shows well and gets the creatives busy on something they’ll bitch about less. But between the creative, media planning and analytics, the banner is becoming the bread and butter baby of online agencies. The smart agencies, however, are now working on more strategic projects in the social media space. But agency management is going to ride the banner horse until it drops dead, and take all the money to the bank while doing it.
The massive reduction in the pricing of display advertising, due to ad networks, is having profound effects. The most important of which is that display advertising is now in reach of the hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country — the clients without agencies. Much in the same way that Google is the conduit for these companies in SEM, they are now able to advertise with display advertising online in an effective, meaningful and cost effective manner.
Someone is going to create a banner-creation tool where clients can just log in, choose the background, upload their logos, type in some text and automatically — poof! — a banner ad: fully coded, animated and ready to go, with myriad options on ad networks to run it. It is the only way to remotely control the aesthetic for the hundreds of thousands of small businesses wishing to replicate their AdWords success in display creative.
Look, those businesses don’t want to create ads that look like crap. They just cannot afford to work with the high cost of agencies. Let’s start to give them the tools they need, shall we? If I have to deal with what’s coming, I think I’m going back to traditional.
The industry lumbers on at its ever-accelerated pace. It does not care where the money is coming from, what format, what creative. Pretty or not, the industry is aesthetically neutral. It goes where it wants to. When all of this starts to stabilize in 20 years, will we be proud of what we have accomplished? What we have created? What have we foisted onto the public? Or will we be horrified?
I love this industry. I love the people in it, the eclectic group of misfits that now run real businesses, the ability to help shape the future of it, the energy that is always about the “new.” Let’s not forget that. Let’s all work to create something meaningful for consumers. Let’s create an ad format that will shape that future for the better — one that benefits us all.
ranty rant signing off…
Think the Google/Microsoft/Yahoo triad has the game locked up? Think again. Find out why a major alternative could be just around the corner.
IAC just launched a new ad network featuring some special audience targeting technology. The news drew praise from some of the press and sharp criticism from others.
As a former IAC employee, what do I think? Can IAC really be a big player in the ad network space? Can they become an ad network that advertisers and brands must buy on? Can they become as essential to advertisers’ online media plans as Google? The short answer is YES. Here’s how.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
First, if IAC is really going to make a go of it, then they have to stop acting like a holding company. IAC must start running the show by dictating downward to the fiefdoms instead of letting the warlords of the individual companies rule the roost. IAC can be one of the few viable threats to the Google/Microsoft/Yahoo triumvirate, if they have the stomach for it. They have the products, technologies and audience. But singular operating goals of each individual company will always take precedence over true integration unless the bigger picture outweighs each brand’s need.
Of course, that process will take some time. So what does IAC do in the interim? Set the groundwork.
“Audience Cubes” — the segmentation of the company’s massive audience –is only the beginning. If you do not think that IAC is going to shake things up over the next couple years, then you don’t know Barry Diller. Regardless of what you may think of Diller, he is nothing if not brilliant. Trust me. He constructed an online media empire in IAC that is currently the only credible threat to the better known media juggernauts ahead of him. Everyone knows the brands: Match.com, Citysearch, Ticketmaster, LendingTree, Ask.com, Evite, HSN, and the list goes on for another 50 companies.
So what are the next steps for the IAC ad network? What should they do? If this was the first step, then what would they have to do for the IAC ad network to rule the roost with brands and consumers? Just two things.
A two-part plan
1. Buy an existing ad network
The IAC media properties are great, but most brands and agencies want to simplify their buys. The more distribution options, the better the offering. Imagine an ad network that you could buy that had the benefits in pricing of an ad network and the ability to exclusively access those well-known online brands.
So which ad network should IAC buy? Specific Media is the one that I would go after. I have worked with more than 40 different ad networks, and they are not all created equally. The quality of the staff, the technology, etc. vary greatly. You have to find someone who has worked with all of your contenders. What they promise, and what they can deliver, vary greatly. You have to go after an ad network that has higher quality sites in its network to complement the IAC properties. Buying an ad network gives you access to the expertise, both in terms of technology and ad sales. IAC Ad Solutions isn’t currently an ad network as much as it is a grouping of disparate sites cobbled together haphazardly. Specific Media is one of the best. Now, can Diller afford it?
2. Use search data
IAC has one of the biggest advantages over any ad network out there. Why? Well, they own Ask.com — a treasure trove of more than 25 million users a month. These are topical keyword searches and specific keyword searches. And those users go all over the web, hence the need to expand beyond just IAC properties and purchase an ad network.
Imagine targeting anyone who typed in “mortgage” across the internet for display. Imagine what agencies and advertisers would do to translate their SEM buys into actionable display campaigns. It is a veritable gold mine.
But what about privacy? Ahhh… to hell with privacy. You all know it’s an illusion anyway, right? Privacy is a red herring, a canard. The truth is the credit card companies know what you buy, the DVD store knows what you rent and TiVo tracks you in four-second intervals. What do you think the potential is for that data?
The truth is your name has been sold more times than you can count. Privacy? Just accept that you don’t have any. Look, I support privacy efforts from the consumer end when it affects important issues like healthcare. But consumption behaviors? Please.
The reality is that IAC offers some of the best privacy against this in the world. Ask.com has a product, AskEraser, that will anonymize your searching on Ask.com. You don’t want to be tracked or used for those purposes, just press a button. One button.
Don’t count IAC out
Those two steps may be a tall order but it would put IAC back in the big game. They have already consolidated their systems on Atlas, the groundwork is set. Audience Cubes may be slapping fresh paint on the car and adding cool rims, but they may end up being much more powerful in the long run than you think. IAC has the potential to really challenge the infrastructure of online advertising, if its reorganization is done right. They have the brands, and they have Barry Diller, and I bet he has a few more tricks left up his sleeve.
ranty rant signing off…
Does Google’s display strategy spell doom and gloom for ad networks?
OK, it’s about time to think of something innovative for Google in SEM. Yes, Google now has universal search, but essentially the basic look of its results page hasn’t fundamentally changed in 10 years.
Worse, the capabilities for advertisers to reach their consumers on that results page is about as dynamic and rich as, well, a rock. The only thing a rock is good for is throwing at someone. Maybe someone should throw a rock at those ads on the right side of Google’s search results page.
Outside of search Google does provide a variety of ever-expanding options to reach consumers through the company’s various print, radio, even TV extensions. In many ways, Google is a media vulture circling every consumer advertising touchpoint it can. But on its main product an advertiser only gets limited characters to work with. Google may have the touchpoints, but what that message looks like is often very important, and what search ads look like make my eyes bleed. Google may get your message in front of consumers, but do we really want to exist in a world where it dictates the creative lens to our consumers?
Never before in history has an ad medium so limiting in communication been so effective, so powerful and so pervasive. It’s all about simplicity, and because of that simplicity, Google succeeded. It was the utilitarian nature of paid search listings that provided a somewhat level playing field for all advertisers. If you bid enough, your small company can outsmart and outsell companies 10 times your size.
So, are the rumors true about Google considering display advertising on results pages? They would be idiots not to. Think of it like an advertiser. You can buy keywords the same way but also have a display ad show up targeted to those keywords. It’s the Holy Grail for click-based display advertisers who rely on ad networks due to their vast reach and low cost. And that represents a significant chunk of the ad space.
So, does Google Display on search results pages kill ad networks? Well, not in the way that a roach motel “kills bugs dead.” But a lot of them will go the way of the dinosaur.
You have to understand the ad dynamic “need state” of consumers and the relationship they have with your product.
Part one is “why” is the consumer there to begin with? Are they actively “seeking” out a product? Are they passively exposed to it? Is it a “high-consideration” purchase product? The consumer’s mind-set is crucial.
The second factor is what is your product? Do you have a product that is high-cost/high-consideration? Are consumers familiar with your product offerings? Is your product new? Is your product “mass” or “niche” in scope?
I’ll get to who it works for and who it doesn’t later, but if Google does make the move, there could be a profound effect on the entire industry. Large sites with inventory they cannot fill rely on ad networks for that boost in income. Those sites have to do little work and yet reap the benefits of ad sales armies at the networks.
So what happens when the bread and butter clients of the ad networks have their clients get more precise targeting with their consumers on Google?
Why does targeting even exist?
The targeting options available now for display leave much to be desired. Even on ad networks and large portals with vast amounts of information, you are still supplying them with a demo profile of the target you want to reach. But you have to ask yourself: Why does that target even exist?
Well, it exists because research showed the client that this group of people had a higher propensity to buy their product. All the clients are doing is improving their odds for success by delivering ads that are more likely to reach that sub-group because that helps them to a better, stronger ROI.
But what if you could ignore the whole concept of targeting to begin with? Google SEM display would not be targeting at all, it would replying-to-interest. And that is where the difference lies. You are not targeting anyone. It is the difference between someone who is looking for a pediatrician, notices the sign in your window and knocks on your door (Google Display Search), and you wanting to expand your business and going into a neighborhood with a lot of kids, and thus parents of kids, and driving your car around with a sign on it (Display Ad Targeting).
It will all end up depending on your product and how creative you are. You have to make a split between advertisers who are trying to change consumer perception of a brand or product through communicative messaging, and those who are just trying to serve a consumer need state. There is a fundamental difference between direct response and brand advertising.
So who does this work for?
This process works for brand categories that have many consumers already in the market. For example, if someone types in “Ford Focus,” your text ad will serve the consumer very well if you are Ford. But what if you’re Toyota? Isn’t that the perfect time to tell the consumer why your vehicle beats out the Ford Focus in several categories? This would work for all competitive targeting of that product, but what it would not work for is everything else.
You can get creative and target keywords that are associative keywords to your category, but it’s doubtful that Google would allow that type of leeway for display since it is currently fairly strict when it comes to SEM paid listings. Relevancy to consumer is Google’s highest goal.
But what you’re doing there is different from mass display. The mass ad networks display advertiser is often trying to put products the consumer doesn’t know they want in front of them. It’s Toyota introducing that car to consumers who are much earlier on into the purchase cycle, so that when they do reach the next stage, they type in “Toyota 4runner.” And that’s where Google display would fail for them, because the consumer probably wouldn’t ever type in a relevant keyword. Yes, you could get them when they are at the “car” keyword level, but that’s about it. For brand messages attempting to convert someone over time, or for lower consideration impulse products, it is perfect to stay in mass ad network display mode.
But for display SEM, think of three things:
1. Consumers you have already communicated with through brand messaging;
2. Brands attempting to switch products within a category;
3. Niche products within categories that would be wasted in mass display.
Who doesn’t this work for? Those hundreds of thousands of users in mom-and-pop shops and smaller businesses that don’t have an advertising agency on retainer. They do not have the resources to create a display banner campaign, nor do they have the aesthetic sensibilities. If you screw up ad copy in SEM or just write like crap, it’s pretty hard to screw it up too bad in the 25, 35, 35 character restriction. Those shops are able to compete in a “text” only world.
But an ugly ass banner? It burns out our eye sockets with its insidious evil. It would be the equivalent of the Blink tag. Remember that? No? Be thankful.
Something tells me that Google might be just a little too frightened of the implications of killing the goose that the laid the golden egg — paid search listings, the long tail of small business. Should the ad networks be worried? Of course they should. But if they start looking at their client base now and figure out why they meet a different need than what Google Search Display would be, they should be able to fend off the wolves for a while.
Well, until Google incorporates the same technology across its normal display network and allows brands to cookie the view of those users, yup, then those ad networks will pucker up real fast.
ranty rant signing off…