Let’s fix ad­ver­tis­ing

The Insider - - CONTENT - By Ari Rosen­berg

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.

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