Disclosing the Quality Is Job-One

Another week, another huge bundle of new listings of dot-bombs. Call up your favorite list of dot-com stocks on Yahoo Finance. How many of them face delisting from the Nasdaq and banishment to the Over the Counter (OTC) boards? How many of the companies that are dependent on Internet advertising dollars don’t know whether they’ll make it through the end of the year on the cash they have left?

It’s all really, really sad. From where I sit, it’s no fun to get those “going out of business” calls from salespeople who have been selling online ads since 1996. Unfortunately, with things going the way they are, it looks like it’s just going to get nastier out there. Expect it to continue until publishers can demand a reasonable price for online ads — reasonable enough to allow them to continue to support themselves.

I’m not one to argue with the basic laws of supply and demand. However, I would argue that if advertisers and publishers alike were fully cognizant of the true value of online advertising, it’s likely that demand for online ads would pick up.

One of the first things we need to do as an industry is completely restructure the way that advertisers and publishers conduct cost-per-acquisition (CPA) campaigns. For a couple years now, publishers using the major ad servers have had the ability to use cookies and pixel tags to independently verify their contributions to CPA campaigns. Why, then, do I still hear horror stories about publishers getting credit only for purchases that immediately follow a click?

Why aren’t publishers structuring different types of deals with advertisers? Why aren’t they pixel-tagging landing pages on the advertiser’s site and asking to be paid for view-through, non-click purchases and delayed conversions? If publishers continue to take credit only for the purchases that happen on a click-to-buy basis, they’re being credited with only a small portion of the campaign’s total success. I don’t understand why, when publishers’ very survival is on the line, more of them aren’t insisting on implementing closed-loop reporting for CPA deals.

While we’re on the topic of publishers standing up for better practices, here’s another question for you: Why aren’t more publishers insisting that advertisers make use of rich media? We know it’s more effective than GIFs at branding. We know it can be hundreds or thousands of times more effective than GIFs at direct response. I can’t even remember the last plan I put together that didn’t include some form of rich media. So why do GIFs and JPEGs continue to dominate the Web?

And finally, why haven’t online brand studies whipped every traditional advertiser into a total frenzy? It’s been a while since companies such as Millward Brown and Dynamic Logic developed online versions of the brand studies that traditional advertisers use to justify media spending. We’ve had time to review these companies’ numerous case studies and white papers demonstrating the branding value of online advertising, and even showing which online ad units are best at lifting brand awareness and purchase intent. Why, then, are brand studies not being offered as added value along with every campaign proposal to traditional advertisers?

The quality of the product is certainly there. We just need to make it evident to advertisers who may not be aware of it.

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