Online advertising buyers and sellers need to invest time and effort to understand the various methods of targeting Web ads -- and learning which ones work for their own campaigns.
More and more companies are exploring online advertising. Virtually all want to take advantage of the targeting capabilities we've been hearing about since around 1996, when ad serving software began to increase in popularity. Online advertising's strongest value may be the ability to target prospects with a specific message and deliver that message without the waste that we typically associate with magazines, outdoor ads, and especially television. Advanced targeting should be a major selling point of online advertising -- yet in talking to quite a few people on both the buying and the selling sides of the business, I sense that targeting is not being fully understood or exploited.
What a shame.
I don't mind paying a premium to eliminate the waste that typically occurs with run of site (ROS) inventory. Picking specific content sections of a Web site or using its ad server to target ads should command a premium. I don't think that most media planners have a problem with that. Why then do I often run into a runaround when asking sales reps to explain how their site targets ads?
Sales reps should be intimately familiar with how their sites leverage targeting. Buyers should be acquainted with the various targeting methods and understand how some are better than others, depending on the situation. When I call a sales rep and ask whether his site geotargets with an IP database or by registration information, that shouldn't stump him. Given that these basic capabilities have been around for years, everyone in the online ad industry should be familiar with them.
On a macro level, we should all be familiar with three basic ways to target ads:
Similarly, all online sales reps should know not only that they have the ability to target to certain segments but also how their technology targets. If they don't, they may find themselves missing out on opportunities such as regionally targeted campaigns and will certainly miss other opportunities further down the road.
If you have time this week, I'd recommend the following:
Tom Hespos heads up the interactive media department at Mezzina Brown & Partners. He has been involved in online media buying since the commercial explosion of the Web and has worked at such firms as Young & Rubicam, K2 Design, NOVO Interactive/Blue Marble ACG, and his own independent consulting practice, Underscore Inc. For more information, please visit the Mezzina Brown Web site. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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