Geomentum's Hiland Sees Ad Versioning As Critical To New Deal With Aol's Local Content Network Patch

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GeomentumLate last week, IPG Mediabrands' hyperlocal advertising agency, Geomentum, announced a new partnership with Aol and its hyperlocal content network, Patch. According to a release, the partnership will provide "Geomentum's clients access to new digital solutions available on Patch's network of over 800 news, information, and community sites." Read the release.

Chris Hiland, President, Strategic Partnerships at Geomentum, discussed the implications of the partnership.

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AdExchanger.com: What is Geomentum’s thesis that inspires a deal such as the one with AOL's Patch unit?

CH: I think the attraction is that in addition to our relationship with Cadreon as an affiliate within Mediabrands, we think it's important to have relationships with primary publishers. That's true regardless of the medium. What's appealing about Patch, is that it behaves ‑ I shouldn't say more like a newspaper ‑ but it doesn't necessarily behave like a standard website. It's even different from, let's say, a Chicago Tribune product like TribLocal, in that it's starting down at the community level and working its way up, as opposed to starting at the top and working down.

In terms of local relevance from a content standpoint, and in terms of its identity related to a community or a town, we believe that it's important for us to understand how those media products behave.

So there's a dimension to this that's more than just, “We can get good media” or “good rates for our advertisers.” We’re going to have a better understanding of how the media products get consumed at the local level, too.

What problem is an opportunity like Patch solving for you?

I think it helps us do “local” at scale.

In a deal like this, are there thoughts about guaranteed and custom placement versus non‑guaranteed/remnant placement, for your media? How does all that break out?

We're really looking at this through a lot of different lenses. I would say, probably by default, it falls more in the custom bucket. But I do think, as an early adopter, and as the first agency partner with Patch, we'll have some pretty interesting opportunities that other agencies might not have. And it could be along the lines of anything you just described.

Can you be more specific?

Well to be perfectly honest, I think we will be more specific once we've got the proven example under our belts.

Our intent is to do more than just focus on CPMs, reach and click‑through rates. This is about understanding how this particular media product gets consumed at a local level ‑ on its own and in conjunction with other media products.

What sort of success metrics are you going to be looking at for this?

I think ultimately we can help drive audience.  Obviously there will be some existing metrics‑like views and click‑ through rates that are fairly paradigmatic. But I think what will be important, and will be highly relevant for our clients is to see how a localized, community‑specific advertisement message drives those metrics. For instance, ad versioning is really critical in this instance. This is not about taking a national message and pushing it through a local channel.

What would you say to the big brand marketer who is looking at this deal. What's in it for them?

I think a lot of it depends on the overlap in the geographic footprint. If the overlap is considerable, and the Patch coverage today helps the client solve a material portion of its geographic footprint, then it's a great way to make something that looks like a national buy from the inside, look like a local buy to the outside. And so in that regard, being able to do local scale is a lot easier than dealing with 800 local websites - just from a pure production standpoint.

I think specifically for clients who have community‑based messages; clients who are providing pharmaceutical, healthcare services in communities; clients who are location-sensitive and specific with regard to responding to weather events; clients who are sponsoring community initiatives. This is a very relevant and trusted context for them to have an advertising presence.

Considering the scale and the targeting involved at the local level, there would seem to be a great creative challenge to manage for the agency, as well as the publisher. How do you manage the creative aspects of this?

It’s the same challenge as any other channel around versioning.  It's about managing the creative components of the ad in a granular fashion, just as we look at the media planning in a granular fashion. That obviously makes it sound simple, but it's really about decomposing the ads into location name ‑ which obviously would get swapped out, and would be directly relevant to the Patch community in which we're advertising. And then optimizing, or versioning out, whatever the offer might be, or the community message might be.

I think it's possible to get high relevance without having to do wildly complicated versioning.

Last question, what would you like publishers to be offering more that they are not today?

This is specific to all media, but it certainly plays in digital. It's: “Look more like a set of local media assets.” Whether you identify yourself by media or town name, or you simply allow your ad serving to behave in response to the specifics of where your audience is and what's relevant to them. Let us plan as granular as we can, and let the success and the relevance generate itself, and the pricing will kind of work itself out over time.

By John Ebbert

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