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Programmatic, But Not Personalized

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Mail Online, the digital sister publication of the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail, is thinking more personal and less programmable as the newspaper site shifts away from programmatic ad buys.

“Our focus is on partnering directly with advertisers and agencies, but we’re currently, in addition to that, working with ad exchanges and ad networks because they’re able to help us in terms of our yield,” says Sean O’Neal, Global CMO of Mail Online. “Over time, we’ll be less and less focused on exchanges and ad networks, meaning releasing our inventory into those marketplaces, because we will be building our own direct sales force more aggressively and selling the majority of our inventory directly to advertisers and agencies.”

O’Neal primarily attributes the advertising shift to marketers’ yearning for more tailored advertising solutions.

“When we sit down with marketers and we ask them what types of solutions they want, most of the solutions they tell us they’re looking for aren’t ‘programmable,’ because programmatic advertising, by definition is limited to advertising that is ‘programmable,’” O’Neal says. “When we sit down with a brand and we say, ‘What does a real high-end solution look like for you,’ we start to get into things that are much more customized, much more individualized, much more integrated, [such as] brand messaging integrated throughout our site, custom sponsorships, [and] this idea of native advertising, which is where advertising, editorial, and the brand message all start to weave together in an appropriate way.”

However, O’Neal doesn’t think programmatic ad buying’s in-the-box practice is near extinction.

“While I think that programmatic ad buying is here to stay, and may actually even increase as a ratio of overall ads bought and sold online, what it will always be limited to is advertising that is programmable.”

Mail Online experienced tremendous growth last year. According to comScore, Mail Online lured in more than 50 million unique site visitors globally during October 2012, surpassing The New York Times and The Guardian, which had 48.7 million and 38.9 million unique site visitors, respectively. However, O’Neal is confident that the online newspaper site can maintain its customized approach despite the site’s expansion.

“It shouldn’t be a question of scale for scale’s sake; the question is impact,” O’Neal says. “Ultimately, it’s impact that marketers are concerned with, and cost per point of impact…These [customized] programs are actually potentially more efficient because you might be reaching a smaller audience, but you’re reaching a highly targeted, highly engaged audience.”

Although Mail Online is currently free, O’Neal says he sees the potential to monetize in the future. He says Mail Online primarily advertises through the employment of mobile, social, video, and display ads.

“These are the channels that our readers have chosen to consume our content through. As a listening publication, our readers are telling us every day which channels they want to receive our content through. We’re focused on content distribution through any channels where our readers want to receive it.”

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