Let’s fix advertising
Let’s make one thing clear. Online advertising is an endless ATM for Google, Facebook and a handful of “platforms” that don’t pay people directly to make content. For traditional publishers however, it’s an awful business that has only got worse since that first banner was sold in 1994.
If you are a traditional publisher online, here is your reality.
Consumers feel visceral contempt for the ads you serve them.
Advertisers feel no value for ads you sell unless a consumer takes an action in response to seeing them.
Media buyers feel pressure to deliver a lower cost per action to their clients and have steroidal leverage created by an endless supply of ad inventory, so your prices get hammered.
That leaves the traditional publisher left holding a bag filled with a shitty business. When I look at the state of this industry of which I am an active part, I feel its failures and then I write angry.
I have funneled this anger into a column for Mediapost called the Online
Publishing Insider for the past ten years. I offer help and plead for more rational thinking from traditional publishers and have learned through the years, that people prefer to shoot the messenger than look in the mirror.
You are a new audience so I want to be clear before we go any further. I am not interested in debating the advice I offer you today. The time for debates is over. I am only interested in writing this article for readers who are open to implementing this advice. The rest of you may leave now with no hard feelings.
For those who remain, here is what you must do to fix your online ad sales business.
First, stop listening to digital specialists and ad tech vendors. When you’re re-ready, you can go back to them with a clear strategy on how to use their technology but right now, these ad tech companies are using the shit out of you.
Secondly, sell your own stuff. If you can’t hire a salesperson become your own. No one will sell the full value of your site the way you or someone you employ can. For those making money solely from ad networks and exchanges, you are leaving 5x to 10x of that amount on the table. Taking in sales revenue without making any sales is a fool’s game.
Third and most importantly, clean up your room. Strip down your web site pages to just two ad units placed above the fold. I recommend a leaderboard or something wider along the top but below your navigation bar, and then a second unit -- either a 300 x 250 or a 300 x 600, along the right side of the page. All the other ad units get thrown away including those “content modules” from Outbrain and Taboola. Those suck the life out of your perceived value.
Fourth repeat after me, “We sell our site to one single advertiser at a time who use two ad units simultaneously to communicate their message.”
This can be called 100% share of voice-per-page view but I like to call it common sense. We learned in kindergarten to speak one at a time but in online publishing, we decided having twelve different advertisers speak at one time to our site visitors is the way to go.
Running multiple advertisers on a single page view is the sole reason why advertisers see no value in the display of their ads. So they focus exclusively
on performance metrics to determine value. I am not suggesting advertisers will stop looking at their cost per whatever, but if you serve ads in this exclusive manner, your advertisers will like what they see and then those numbers will tend to look better.
Now you’re ready for the final step. Make sure advertisers who buy from you always see their own ads; at the same time, condense your inventory so you gain back sales leverage.
How? Roadblocks. At IGN. com, a site I worked at that was bought for $650 million, we implemented an ad model where advertisers could only buy our home page (site and sections) on a weekly and exclusive basis.
We estimated how many impressions would occur per week. We multiplied that number by a premium CPM and that’s how much it cost to own our users’ attention exclusively per week in these premium placements (we sold the rest of our inventory on a pure CPM basis but to one advertiser per page view).
Why did this work? For starters, it aligned well with advertiser’s promotional mindset of being “visible” for the launch of their campaigns. Then when advertisers visited our site the week they bought, the only ads they saw were theirs. Do not underestimate how important that is to the media manager who made the buy, who can then show their boss what they bought. Most importantly, this simple approach condensed an endless supply of ad impressions into 52 weeks per year. We had all the leverage to close advertisers in advance or they would miss out, and when our sell through hit 45 weeks, we easily raised prices the following year.
Congratulations, you are now in the business of delivering the exclusive attention of your audience to your advertisers over a fixed period of time.
You can now compare your ad offering to that of your cluttered competitors and watch your clients nod their head yes.
Are there other things you should do to help your online ad sales business? Absolutely. But I am out of words and you are running out of time. So before you do anything else, you have to do this.
Interested in more specifics in implementing this approach? Feel free to hit me up. Just don’t email me to debate this. I have no time for that and really, neither do you.