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The Secrets Publishers Don’t Tell You About Redesigns

neilvogelThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community. 

Today’s column is written by Neil Vogel, CEO at About.com.

2014 is proving to be the year of the digital redesign. From Fortune to Cosmo, The New Yorker and Quartz, premium publishers are making bets on the best way to make a beautiful product that improves user experience and increases monetization.

Among the millions of questions publishers ask themselves – How should we feature content? How big should we make the images? Font size? Native? Responsive? Infinite scroll? – the only question they should be asking is, “What’s the real opportunity here?”

This is the opportunity: A redesign is the single biggest chance to redefine a brand to all stakeholders, including users, advertisers, employees and investors. It’s a direct reflection of a publisher’s beliefs and value proposition. It’s also a direct reflection of the company’s culture. If a culture is fearful of change or anchored in old ideas, the product will be a direct reflection of that decision. Deciding to not change is an active choice.

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Creative: The Missing Link

kerelcoopersellsiderThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Kerel Cooper, vice president of platform development at LiveIntent. He previously spent 15 years working for digital publishers running ad operations and platform-strategy teams. 

We're living through a period of unprecedented focus on optimization, reporting and campaign performance. And that's a good thing.

But this rise in the influence of media and measurement has neglected an essential component of advertising effectiveness: creative.

Over the last nine months, I’ve attended a number of conferences and meet-ups. I’ve asked people publicly and privately, and I cannot seem to find a good, consistent solution for the creative challenge. Creative always seems to be the last thing talked about – if it’s mentioned at all – when it should be one of the first.

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Rise Of The Hybrid Advertiser

brianmikaliseditedThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Brian Mikalis, senior vice president of monetization at Pandora.

Looking back about 10 years, marketers either focused on driving brand metrics or worked to achieve immediate direct-response results. The sell side often tried to differentiate these advertisers based on the cost model the advertiser was willing to pay, such as CPM campaigns for brands and cost-per-click and cost-per-action campaigns for direct response.

Publishers and networks primarily focused on building solutions for brand advertisers in an effort to earn higher rates and consistent business from advertisers with the largest budgets. The leftover inventory went to direct-response advertisers looking for scale and cheaper rates to make the campaigns work for their strict return on investment goals.

A few advertisers always had both brand goals and direct-response goals, but often had separate buying teams or agencies representing the different budgets. Other advertisers wanted both in a single campaign – the premium high-impact placements and the scale and pricing of traditional direct-response advertisers. The sell side was left scratching its heads on what to do.

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Should Premium Inventory Be Sold In The Open RTB Market?

brianbrowniesellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Brian Brownie, director of advertising operations at eBay North America.

Programmatic, like many things in life, is an exercise in trial and error for most US publishers. Those with exceptional scale and a high-quality environment, backed by in-depth consumer insight, quickly became key sources of inventory for the exchange world. Growth was tremendous and the control was an operator’s dream. Soon, these publishers became accustomed to the fluid nature of the programmatic buying frenzy and unleashed the systems into all their standard IAB ad sizes.

But, as usual, when things seem too good to be true, it’s often because they are. While the floor rates and auction competition yielded high eCPMs, they distracted from the one key piece of the equation: selling. Where these publishers were once able to deliver a highly targeted impression to a consumer with a great degree of relevancy, the situation started to decay with the allure of automation. Brands that once coveted direct relationships now found themselves torn between an insertion-order commitment and the chance at efficiency in the form of lower prices and fluid spending. This, coupled with RFPs for banners drying up, signaled a radical change in the ecosystem.

Programmatic’s allure may be hard for marketers to resist, but buying large swaths of faceless inventory in the hope of hitting the target audience and getting performance at a low price may not deliver the kind of returns buyers are hoping for.

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Overcoming Vendor Fatigue

edkozeksellsideupdatedThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Ed Kozek, senior vice president of product and engineering for WeatherFX at The Weather Company.

How would you say 25% of your week is spent?

If your answer is vendor meetings, you aren’t alone. My product team spends at least 10 hours every week on these meetings.

Publishers generally don't suffer from the “not invented here” bias that vendors are victim to, where there is innate resistance to using third-party technologies. Publishers focus on building compelling content to attract more users, relying on a set of levers and dials to maximize advertising revenue. We don't care if those levers are in-house or outsourced, but it does matter how many we use.

Partner relationships touch many groups, such as legal, product, compliance and ad ops. Working with too many vendors bogs them all down. It can also hurt your product by introducing latency, discrepancies and privacy concerns.

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Eliminate The Word “Remnant” From Your Yield Strategy

peterspandesellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Todays column is written by Peter Spande, chief revenue officer at Business Insider.

I want to get out ahead of all the year-end stories about resolutions and predictions. If you are in charge of yield for a publisher and are still calling your indirect revenue channels “remnant,” you need to switch terms now. You can’t wait until 2015 to make this subtle but important change.

Remnant. It’s a word used to describe the leftover items sent to outlet stores or the scraps of fabric or dough that remain after constructing your primary product. Is this what you want your unfilled inventory compared to?

I realize it’s just a label, but it signals – both externally and internally – that this inventory is an afterthought, only slightly more important than waste. Unless you consistently sell out your inventory, you can’t afford to hold this attitude today, and you most definitely won’t be able to afford it in the future.

Like many things, the term “remnant” comes from the peculiarities of print publishing. Unlike in digital publishing, where ad supply and demand are loosely correlated, in print you can run remnant ads in the leftover pages of a folio. For example, if you sold 50 ad pages in a magazine, with a 50/50 ad-to-edit ratio, you’d create 50 pages of editorial. If you sold 35 pages of ads in the next issue but wanted to keep the same 50/50 ad-to-edit ratio, you’d generate 35 pages of editorial and wind up with a 72-page folio, which leaves two extra pages that would be sold off as remnant. Remnant was a very controlled part of the publisher’s business.

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Publishers Need To Help Brands Move Beyond The CTR

jeffbandersellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today's column is written by Ephraim Bander, president and chief revenue officer at Sticky.

For brand advertisers, clicks don’t count. But not all brand marketers are ready to accept that reality.

Clickthrough rate (CTR) is among the worst measures of the efficacy of a digital, brand-focused ad. It simply does not reflect the big picture of the consumer experience. Publishers know this, but it’s time they educated their brand advertisers about it.

For every brand-based ad that a consumer clicks, there are probably hundreds that she does not. This doesn’t mean she didn’t see them or isn’t aware of the brand that she just saw; she just chose not to click or to act at that time. The key word here is “chose.” If someone who sees an ad makes a conscious decision not to click, that still means she saw the ad and responded accordingly, even if, in this case, it was by choosing not to act.

Take, for example, a nationally known consumer brand like Coca-Cola or a fast food chain like McDonald’s. Since nobody can buy a two-liter Diet Coke or a Quarter Pounder with cheese online, the odds that a consumer will feel a pressing need to click these ads are pretty slim. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t see them. It doesn’t mean the brands aren’t now at the top of her mind and that she won’t stop at McDonald’s on her way home from the grocery store, where she bought a few bottles of Diet Coke. Just because she didn’t click doesn’t mean she wasn’t motivated to make these purchases because of her exposure to the ad.

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How Publishers Are Seeing The Light On Ad Blindness

gregmasonsellsideThe Sell Sider is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today's column is written by Greg Mason, CEO at Purch.

Move over, programmatic and native. Ad fraud and viewability have become the two biggest buzzwords in the digital advertising industry.

At the center of both is the issue of being seen. In a nutshell, ads need to be seen – by actual people – for ROI and engagement to occur. Makes sense, right?

Candidly, though, seeing an ad isn’t the industry’s problem. There real issue is “ad blindness,” the tendency for audiences to completely ignore ads, even if they’re clearly visible. Last year, 60% of consumers said that they weren’t able to remember what the last online ad they saw was about, while 80% of those who did remember said the ad wasn’t relevant to them.

So having an ad that’s viewable to people – not bots – is great. But if it’s just ignored, what’s the point?

In the late ’90s, when the term was first coined, ad blindness was largely caused by the fact that ads were literally too small to be seen. When the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the industry got serious about creating ads with more impact, and so larger, more creative-centric new formats were born.

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Vox Media Embraces Programmatic For Its Scaled-Up Audience

Joe Purzycki Vox MediaTwo years is a long time for online publisher Vox Media. In that span, the owner of seven editorial sites – including The Verge, SB Nation, Eater and Polygon – went from eschewing programmatic to embracing it.

Vox’s strategy changed because its sites grew, explained Joe Purzycki, Vox Media’s VP of advertising.

Vox totaled 20 million monthly uniques two years ago. Today it has 150 million global uniques, and has added four additional sites.

The demographics of Vox shifted with that growth. The target audience used to be 18- to 34-year-old males. Now, the gender split is narrowing, although the brand still indexes unusually high in education and household income. That broader audience created the need for Vox to start using a data-management platform and sell advertising based on its first-party data.

Purzycki talked to AdExchanger about the changes Vox has undergone in its monetization strategy over the past couple of years and what’s ahead.

AdExchanger: Why has Vox embraced programmatic, when two years ago it was so firmly in the direct sales camp?

JOE PURZYCKI: At that time, we had just introduced [gaming site] Polygon, and were still focused on that male 18-34 audience. We had a smaller audience, and our direct sales efforts were driving our business.

Today, given size of audience and amount of inventory, programmatic is a growing piece of our strategy. We still rely heavily on direct sales, which is where the majority of revenue is coming from.

We pair our direct efforts with our programmatic efforts. That can be through private exchanges, if that’s what our clients want to do. Or, if our direct team is selling larger sponsorships or branded content series, with those larger formats that aren’t available through programmatic yet, we work with clients to do both that and buy fluid media through programmatic channels to support their direct sales buy. (more…)


Dynamic Price Floors Perpetuate An Ad Stack Cold War

willdohertyThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Will Doherty, senior director of business development at Index Exchange, a division of Casale Media Inc.

The jig is up. And it’s been up for a long while. It’s time to move past dynamic floors.

They simply have no place in the current programmatic ecosystem. They are shortsighted and deny publishers the opportunity to work closely with their clients – many of whom are gearing up for a programmatic-only future. You’re not simply short-changing a bidder by deploying dynamic floors, you’re hindering your ability to support accurate price discovery for buyers. If they can’t price it, they won’t buy it. More importantly, any effort to obscure the value or credibility of any given impression – to represent it as something it’s not – is deceptive.

Dynamic floors, or “soft floors,” allow publishers to create artificial market density in order to drive up the cost of a given impression. In any open exchange, buyers only expect to pay slightly more than the next highest bid. If a buyer bids $2 and the next highest bid is $1.50, most auction mechanics would sell that impression to the buyer at $1.51. When a dynamic floor is introduced into this equation, the SSP will create “phantom demand” that would price the bid at $5 as if that demand actually existed. That figure now represents the high end of the auction. But since it doesn’t exist, the SSP will sell that impression to the buyer at $2, since it is the highest bid below the dynamic floor of $5. This is an artificial price increase of nearly 33% for the buyer.

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