10 Reasons Your Media Plan Needs to Include More Than Just Ad Networks

Using an advertising network or exchange to purchase media for online advertising campaigns can deliver many benefits. Advantages can range from cost efficiencies to targeting capabilities – however, having a media plan exclusively for these types of platforms would be a poorly planned campaign.

Here’s why publisher direct media buys should still be part of the media mix:

  1. Exclusivity. Some publishers do not broker or sell their inventory at all. To maintain competitive margins, creative control of advertising messages on their site, and control of their audience data, many publishers include a model that requires purchasing inventory directly from the publisher. So, to lure the fickle online universe, a publisher must invest in unique content and optimal user experience. But, in the end, it’s an opportunity to proclaim value for both advertisers and publishers.
  2. Transparency. Sure, a lot of networks and exchanges have transparency into what sites we purchase. And we’re always hearing about audits. For example, companies like DoubleVerify are shedding light on ad campaigns running next to explicit or undesirable content. And why wouldn’t it be the case? Most of the online traffic is consuming porn. You know who you are! Last month The New York Daily News reported 30 percent of all Internet traffic comes from porn sites. A publisher direct media buy can alleviate some concern about where an advertiser’s ads are showing up.
  3. Visibility. The AdSafe Semiannual Review, released in February, found that over 40 percent of all ads run through networks or exchanges go unseen. Inventory outside of the consumer’s view, typically below the fold, still count impressions. A direct publisher media buy will decrease this likelihood significantly.
  4. Efficiencies. Let’s face it: overall pricing will never be more efficient than buying through networks or exchanges. You get what you pay for. Pennies in equals crap out – long-tail sites with bad placement and questionable content. However, publishers that aren’t selling to networks or exchanges are trying to leverage unsold inventory. They’re also working to maintain a stronger margin – offering their own direct response programs with much cheaper, standard run-of-site (ROS) inventory.
  5. Targeting. Networks and exchanges are leveraging data like never before. And they can do some great things. But now, many publishers are offering more advanced targeting opportunities. How? They’re using companies like Lotame or Bizo to create better targeting options within their own platforms.
  6. Content. Aligning your product with the right content can come at a premium. Nevertheless, it’s worth it to be in the right place at the right time: when a consumer is researching and your product or service aligns perfectly. Content also plays a huge role in website performance, popping up in organic search results and aligning with quality content makes it invaluable.
  7. Brand affinity. As with content, many brands carefully guard where their ads appear and with which websites their brand associates. Protecting your brand will require some type of monitoring and verification to ensure accountability. You can achieve this by making a media commitment with a publisher and creating a level of brand association through a presence on the site.
  8. Customization. When working directly with a publisher, consider customizing the buy with high-impact creative executions, sponsorships, promotions, sweepstakes, social extensions, and content/product integration. These opportunities let a brand offer more value to online users and give advertisers an opportunity to do the unexpected.
  9. Integration. Cross-platform integration can be valuable in negotiations and help create a program with a holistic and consistent experience for consumers. To build greater brand affinity and better recognition, it’s important to align with a brand through various mediums. TV, print, online, mobile, social, and others give you more ways to connect with those that are passionate or loyal with a specific media property. In the meantime, they develop a level of awareness and consideration for your brand through advertising. Often, you’ll find a brand study included in a cross-platform package to measure engagement and interaction.
  10. Expertise. When it comes to planning, sales reps are extremely valuable within verticals. They offer third-party and proprietary research, competitive insights, and category and industry knowledge. Publishers within a specific vertical can be a valuable resource because they know their audience and their passion points.

Let’s be clear. I don’t want to create the illusion that networks and exchanges aren’t valuable. But recently, I’ve seen way too many plans that are exclusive to these types of platforms. If you’re a brand and your agency recommends only this, it’s time to question their expertise within the display arena. There are too many great reasons why going publisher direct can benefit your media plan.

This column was originally published on May 9, 2012.

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