A small ad network with its roots in political marketing has introduced a targeting method based on an unusual branding metric: the likely duration of an ad's exposure to the end user.
The Fifth Network's "attention targeting" initiative will let media buyers deliver ads to pages it deems will garner the longest view-times. The mechanics behind the automated guesswork consist of contextual analysis combined with data from previous campaigns.
Bill Caspare, Fifth Network's president and CEO, said early tests of the offering have enabled it to offer advertisers an effective CPM at a lower rate than they pay for premium inventory. He said the targeting method allows the same interaction and click-through rates, plus the theoretical branding benefit of longer exposure to an ad.
"This is a branding product," Caspare said, adding the company will engage Dynamic Logic and InsightExpress surveys to measure brand lift for campaigns that use the method. He added internal trials had resulted in 300 to 400 percent longer ad exposure times than a control group of premium inventory.
Examples of content The Fifth Network says Web users spend the most time with include photo albums and certain kinds of news articles. "We're finding we're able to measure that," Caspare said.
Allen Stern, media director for Agency.com in San Francisco, said he's intrigued by the prospect of a length-of-exposure targeting scheme.
"It's definitely something we'd want to explore, since sometimes we see that transitional pages do not perform very well," he said. By way of example, he said the inbox for a Web-based e-mail system is likely a worse ad placement than that of an individual message page.
Stern was concerned however about the fallibility of such a targeting system, owing to factors ranging from people leaving browser screens open overnight to top-of-screen placements that are unlikely to be visible while someone scrolls through a page. "You need to take it with a grain of salt," he said.
The Fifth Network has attempted to allay such concerns by excluding wide banners from the program, along with any ad impressions lasting more than two-and-a-half minutes. "We try to set a whole series of parameters to be fair to our investment as well as to our clients," Caspare said.
Agency.com's Stern said he hadn't heard of The Fifth Network when asked about it yesterday, and he's likely not alone. The two-year-old firm is a relative no-name in a large and expanding field of ad network contenders. Its traffic is also slight: The Fifth Network didn't rank in comScore's May 2007 list of the top 50 ad networks. Between October 2006 and June 2007, the company served between 12 million and 25 million impressions on any given month, according to a spokesperson, while its total impressions for 2006 were 200 million. While the company's bread and butter is a banner network where 85 to 90 percent of the placements contain video, The Fifth Network also offers a video player and syndication platform with ad offerings.
Prior to launching The Fifth Network, Caspare worked for an Arizona-based political consultancy, db Associates, and later consulted with video ad firm Klipmart. The company's clients reflect that history, with a focus on government marketing contracts such as the Arizona Office of Tourism. Publishers in the network are heavily focused on newspaper Web sites, including sites run by The McClatchy Company, Belo Interactive, Gannett and Lee Enterprises.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.