June 13, 2014 Last Updated 12:57 pm

If advertisers (and agencies) want to limit ad fraud they might consider better targeting

But good luck with that, as targeting means individual ad buys (rather than networks) and means getting to know publishers once again

It would be nice to think that stories such as that which appeared in the Financial Times would wake up the ad industry, but that might be too much to hope for.

If you are unfamiliar with that reference, and the fact that the FT is behind a pretty solid paywall limits its readership, then here is the story in brief: Mercedes-Benz discovered that the majority of the ad impressions it was getting in its latest ad campaign brokered by the digital marketing firm Rocket Fuel was viewed by bots – automated computer programs – rather than actual human beings (read: potential customers). Of 365,000 ad impressions, 57 percent were considered fraudulent. Mercedes believes that overall, only 6 percent of the ad impressions it bought were questionable, and Rocket Fuel is said to refunded the German car maker for the suspect impressions.”

mcgraw-hill-man-adOf course, everyone knows that a portion of the ad dollars spent for online advertising is misspent on bad websites set up to garner ad dollars, and that a portion of ad impressions are generated by less-than-honorable means. The question is what that portion is – is it a sizable portion, or a mere sliver?

This trend in advertising is driven by many factors such as rush to receive low CPMs, the growth of ad buying services rather than all-in-one agencies that handle creative as well as media, and the growth of ad networks.

Today, an ad sales person for any publication – print or digital – must grow relationships between the brands, their creative agency and the media agency. It is generally thought that the last relationship is the hardest because of turnover and the fact that media contacts are often very young people who have little knowledge of both the media world and scheduling effective advertising. Media agencies would strongly disagree, of course, arguing that the growth of their trade is tied to a strong need for specialization in ad buying – especially true today thanks to advertisers needing to understand things such as programmatic ad buying, real-time bidding, and the like. There is some merit in both points of view.

For publishers schooled on the old world of ad buying, especially within B2B, the news that much of the money they lost to digital competitors (and didn’t get back as new digital advertising themselves) might make them crack a wry grin. But the key is not to gloat of the dollars your former customers are now wasting, but to get back those customers.

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I saw your ad 10 million times

The important thing for print centric publishers to understand, though, is that many digital-only publishers also are facing these issues and learning to adapt. Low CPMs demanded by media agencies hurt digital properties that can offer a relevant, effective audience just as much as they do print brands trying to sell digital advertising into their online and mobile products.

To justify higher CPMs it is important to not only prove that the ad dollars will reach a targeted audience, but it is just as important to prove that it did, indeed, do that after the campaign is over.

But many media properties, newspapers and magazines, have the audience advertisers really want. Publishers know their audiences, their demographics and buying patterns. The key is to understand what digital ad buyers want, and there is the disconnect. Is the buy only about the lowest possibly CPM? No, but are you in the ballgame with your prices? Can you justify not only the buy, but prove its worth afterwards? I think publishers can, if they work at it.

  • Gerard 3 years ago

    This is a very interesting debate. I always thought that the real way to get to your audience is to improve a complete Inbound Marketing campaign (including SEO, SEM, Social Media, etc.) to offer value content directly to your community and your real target. The display nerwork in third party sites (based on CPM) is also a very valuable option to spread your brand and your message over the internet in those sites where you know your audience might be. But, as it’s said in the article, there’s a lot of cheating in performance measuring, as long as ad servers work differently depending on the concrete nertwork you are advertising. So, it’s a matter of being careful with brokers agencies and to be sure where are your messages displaying.
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