Home  › Media › Media Planning
pinganfeatured

A Closer Look at Audience Buy in China

  |  February 27, 2013   |  Comments   |  

This buying concept essentially changes the operating model between brands, media agencies, and publishers.

The latest buzz in media has definitely been the concept of "audience buy." This buying concept essentially changes the operating model between brands, media agencies, and publishers. The traditional way of digital media buying usually consists of media agencies buying display ads directly with publishers. Agencies determined which publishers to buy based on matching the publisher user profile and brand target audience profile.

The old way focused on reaching the target audience through publishers, hence the term media buying. But the digital ecosystem is enormous and ever-growing, and consumers are continually seeking content across multiple publishers.

For cost reasons, we obviously can't buy from all those publishers. Here's where audience buy comes in because what brands care about most are the digital consumer behaviors across different publishers. Therefore, our focus in audience buy is placed entirely on buying the "right" digital behavior based on various targeting technologies and cross publisher ad serving.

All this sounds great conceptually, but is audience buy really a one size fits all solution for brands? Is programmatic audience buying really going to kill direct media buy? Let's take a closer look at the audience buy model and evaluate.

Evaluating media objectives

First let's evaluate if audience buy is really the right buying model for your brand. We can determine that by looking at the primary digital media objectives of the brand. From an industry perspective, FMCG brands are primarily focused on branding across mainstream digital channels; finance, insurance, and many B2B brands are focused on lead generation through some sort of a registration process.

With branding as a primary objective, FMCG brands are the least suitable for the audience buy model because most of these brands have traditionally always worked with large mainstream digital channels such as portals and online video sites. Now these brands will still want to maintain a direct relationship with publishers for PR bargaining power and this is especially true in China.

Another reason is that lots of publishers in China are realizing the growing popularity of audience buy, hence they've invested a lot in various content cooperation efforts in recent years. Content cooperation can range from making a micro-film to creating a brand sponsored column or BBS activity. Publishers will often bundle in display ads with content cooperation, so brands still see value in direct media buy. But that doesn't mean that FMCG brands can ignore audience buy completely; it can still serve a purpose in campaigns where budget is limited and the brand wants to support the main communication channel with a mixture of different targeted publishers.

However, lead generation brands are very suitable for the audience buy model. The key reasons are these brands focus on accurate targeting and action-oriented results. Many B2B brands have a very niche target, for example construction, occupational safety, or IT hardware. While many of them conduct direct buying with category verticals, the more effective lead-gen channels have always been performance based such as SEM. Hence, the benefits of using audience buy for B2B brands are two-fold: wide targeting options, and cost efficiency.

Traditionally, B2B targeted their consumers online through buying only category verticals instead of large mainstream portals. However, that severely limits ad serving impressions because it only catches consumers when they are browsing the vertical site itself. With audience buy, we can target these niche consumers even when they are browsing portals and other non-related websites based on their historical browsing behavior.

From a cost perspective, most publishers charge on a CPM basis, but what these B2B brands care about is not impressions but leads. Hence, audience buy can utilize CPC or even CPA method for the long term. This places the focus entirely on the action and sales lead instead of paying for displaying the ad.

Audience buy options in China

Now that we have evaluated if audience buy is suitable for your brand, let's look at some different buying methods in China for your consideration. I'd like to categorize these buying methods primarily by targeting methodology:

1. Media list is one of the simplest ways for targeting, which is through a list of publishers. This method is usually used to target multiple relevant mainstream category verticals covering fashion, food, automotive, and IT industries. However, if your target audience is very niche and won't be found on mainstream verticals, then consider some of the methods below.

2. Contextual targeting is based on setting a combination of keywords that resembles the brand's target audience and then the ads are served if the keyword appears on the website content. This method is usually used to raise brand awareness by extending the reach to consumers who are actively browsing relevant content.

3. Search history works by tracking a user's browsing history in the search engine based on cookies, which then serves the relevant ads that matches the user's search intent. Both Baidu Web Union and Google Display Network utilize this method.

4. Transaction history is a form of targeting that rides on the booming growth of e-commerce in China in the past few years. Since Taobao is one of the dominant B2C e-commerce channels in China, many Taobao and Tmall brands use this type of ad to boost their e-commerce sales. Because if a consumer has bought similar products before, then the ad is very relevant.

5. Cross media browsing history is the most sophisticated type of targeting using a combination of a DSP, SSP, and DMP platforms. All the targeting data are gathered from cookies across ads served on multiple publishers. These cookies are then analyzed and each individual consumer cookie gets numerous interest and industry tags. Hence ads are served when the cookie browsing history matches what the brand desires. Now in western markets, the DMP platforms that store cookies are relatively mature. But in China, it's still in its infancy and most of the DMP platforms have evolved out of ad network vendors and other ad serving vendors.

6. ISP browsing history is mostly likely unique to China, as in western markets it would be considered an infringement of privacy. The mechanism works by cooperating with ISPs on entire user browsing history, and then the ISPs serve the ads through a pop-up that is non-native to the publisher. The ads will load even before the website, because the ISP intercepts the request and serves the ad first.

As you can see from the numerous interesting targeting methods and companies, audience buy is certainly a growing trend in China. But before jumping on the bandwagon, we must closely examine our own digital media objectives. Then make an informed decision based on what's really important to your brand.

Subscribe to ClickZ Asia to receive your weekly dose of the region's latest trends, tips, and insights straight to your inbox.

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlie Wang

Currently digital director for Mindshare Beijing, Charlie has over five years of experience covering both IT consulting and ad agency industries. He was previously technical director at Tribal DDB Hong Kong, where he led the implementation of analytics and technical innovation across digital campaigns. His previous experiences include data analytics director at Bizcom Consulting in Beijing, and business intelligence analyst at Deloitte Consulting in the U.S. Charlie's project portfolio includes digital analytics, digital campaign production, marketing data integration, as well as large scale data warehouse implementations. He has worked on numerous digital accounts including: McDonald's, Manulife, Wrigley's, Smart Communications, Financial Times, and Friso.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Media newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Internet Marketing Campaign Manager
      Internet Marketing Campaign Manager (Straight North, LLC) - Fort MillWe are looking for a talented Internet Marketing Campaign Manager to join the...
    • Online Marketing Coordinator
      Online Marketing Coordinator (NewMarket Health) - BaltimoreWant to learn marketing from the best minds in the business? NewMarket Health, a subsidiary...
    • Call Center Manager
      Call Center Manager (Common Sense Publishing) - Delray BeachWanted: Dynamic Call Center Manager with a Proven Track Record of Improving Response...