There are so many aspects to the online advertising space that confuse marketers and agencies who act as the client advocate in the interactive space. After conducting a number of industry interviews with ad agencies and advertisers I have found that there is market confusion around ad networks and the safety of your brand.

Over the next few posts I thought I would address some high level issues and recruit your feedback and ideas in this forum to begin an open dialog with the best of our industry in order to develop a strategy and possibly an organization that will begin to guide the interactive ad industry in a positive direction that will inevitably lead to larger online ad spending from advertisers for 2007.

Ad Networks
Historically, an organization charged with the representation of advertising space for a group of Web sites for the purpose of maximizing revenue and minimizing administrative costs through aggregation. The role of an Internet advertising network is to transact, serve, track and report the distribution of creative from advertisers to publishers using an efficient, interactive marketplace.

Today they have become sophisticated operations designed to allow advertisers to place their advertising materials in front of selected individuals.  The typical selling proposition of a network is that these individuals are good prospects for the particular product or service on offer. But ad networks differ in several ways, including:

  1. How the your audience or individuals are selected or targeted
  2. The range of publishers' sites on which the advertisements may appear

A network can also be categorized according to the nature of the financial arrangement between the advertiser, the network and the publisher.

  1. The True Network= bases on revenue sharing agreements across a wide range of sites
  2. Arbitrage network = buys unused, unwanted remnant inventory at bargain prices in hopes of repackaging and reselling it profitably
  3. The Broker network = simply manages the transactions and adds little value for advertisers.

The beauty of the Ad Network, dependant on type, business emphasis, organization and approach, is that most networks offer a range of options, including demographic, geographic and dayparting. Many allow advertisers to mix and match various types of selectivity, creating a near infinite range of possibilities for finding specific categories of prospects and serving them targeted messages.

So why do Ad Networks have such a bad rap with advertisers and agencies alike?

One answer could be….
While ad networks offer increased reach ad networks also offer less control for brand advertisers. Marketers placing impressions on an ad network will be challenged to keep tabs on where their advertising appears. Marketers are justly vigilant about protecting their brand -- especially online, where they must inevitably give up a degree of control -- but ad networks can be particularly frustrating.

  1. Who do you hold responsible when you brand shows up on inappropriate content?
  2. How can you hold the agency, ad networks or publishers accountable?
  3. Is your Brand truly Safe without some sort of industry standard categorization of content?

Sound off...

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The Online Ad Game via @jpenabickley