Buying display: focus on quality

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Andrew Lerner, CEO, Trust Metrics
Andrew Lerner, CEO, Trust Metrics

Direct marketers may dominate the digital display advertising market, but most of these marketers are getting as little as one-third of the return they could. And, no, that's not a typo. Why? Because many ignore one of the fundamentals of buying display media: the media itself.


There are three basic components to buying media: first, reach the right person — "targeting" or "optimization" in digital speak; second, deliver the right message — "creative optimization," and, third, put the message in the right place — the media environment where the right person is going to be most receptive to the message they are receiving. 


This last fundamental, the "right place," is the one that's basically ignored, particularly when buying audiences off ad exchanges and through most ad networks.


It's hard to imagine that an advertiser on any TV show or in any magazine or newspaper wouldn't have at least a rudimentary understanding of where they are buying an ad even if they've never seen the media. At the very least, there's some place to send an insertion order or the creative. Not so much in scale digital display. A typical audience buy might run across as many as 200,000 different websites. On top of that, domain names and sites in inventory change constantly — by as much as 20% per month. 


In digital, that's a problem. Aside from the pornography, the hate speech, the violence, and excessive profanity, the Internet offers an unending array of sites that are very low quality publishing environments and are worthless to advertisers. 


Crude humor sites proliferate the exchanges. They are filled with thousands of animations, videos and slideshows titled "How I almost died" and "Awkward," as well as proxy sites that let users break through firewalls at schools, offices and surf anywhere on 
the Internet.


There are also forums, photo sharing, user-generated content, dating, amateur blogs, ad farms, non-English dot-coms and wallpaper download sites, among others, that are almost always very low quality and provide very little value to advertisers.


Sites like these drive results that are incredibly compelling and painfully obvious. The more low quality sites in an audience-driven campaign, the worse the performance.


When marketers pay just a little bit of attention to identifying the right place, we have found that basic direct metrics, such as cost per acquisition, drop by nearly 67% and click-through rates rise by as much as 100%.


Fortunately, new ad technology that is customized to a specific brand's needs — and those of digital marketers — exists to detect the features of high quality environments to improve those metrics. Not a day too soon. This means that lack of information or transparency is no longer the hurdle — or an excuse for continued ad industry inertia.

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