Ad Age Wonders if Blind Networks Can Save Web Ads?

advertising-age-dinosaurIt’s true. Dinosaur marketing and advertising publisher, Advertising Age, suggests that “blind networks” may be able to save “premium” content publishers and their CPMs. Hallelujah.

Examples of Ad Age saviors include Short Tail Media and with Yahoo!’s former Senior Vice President of Business Operations, Elizabeth Blair, and the former Vice President of Global Pricing & Yield Management (PYM) for Yahoo!, Andy Atherton. says that it receives premium advertising inventory on the down low from top publishers.

Also, according to the article written by Abbey Klassen, the difference between this and other so-called blind networks is that in addition to premium inventory for sale, won’t tell potential advertisers on what sites they are going to run – just that it’s gonna be good if they choose to buy the “A-List” because the “A-List” is very similar to certain buckets of sites from the quality Comscore 500 or 1,000.

Last we looked, social media is all over Comscore’s list – but says it has page-level fingerprinting technology that can pick up the bad stuff.

In general, it’s amusing to hear’s pitch. Maybe they can get it to work. To date, many networks have this type of deal in place which can be shaky for pubs looking for anonymity. The challenge for will be whether or not they can get large publishers to offer their best, unsold inventory while maintaining anonymity for publishers.

Working against and Short Tail will be history. As advertisers run campaigns, they will see the referrals from sites on the network and discover the true site list.

As you might imagine, what needs to happen here is that the premium publishers need to put their premium inventory on the exchange which can help exchanges with the “chicken and egg” issue. With little premium inventory on the exchange, few brand advertisers will have interest in exchange inventory. With few brand advertisers and less competition, few publishers are going to be willing to sell their premium inventory to exchange participants. Eventually, this will be overcome but it will likely require some pubs and advertisers to take chances in the beginning. With a surplus of inventory, publishers can push the envelope.

At some point, we think, the idea of blind networks will become a thing of the past as direct sales teams divide and conquer, and transparency reigns earning publishers and advertisers the best yield and ROI, respectively, for their display ad inventory.

Maybe and Short Tail will put its networks on the exchange? Doubtful in the short term. Yet, in the future they could become super traders of premium media on the exchange.

For “premium” publishers interested in offloading some of their unsold premium inventory, they might also consider a contextual exchange which offers transparency on content type (site or page level – think AdSense content network, or Adsdaq) rather than the site itself. They still have the “history” issue. And, we wonder if the contextual exchange would bring out the value of the premium placement if its grouped with other non-premium inventory.

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  1. Totally agree about the blind networks. How can a “blind network” really get a publisher the best price for premium inventory with CPM prices falling off a cliff?

    There are already strained relations between publishers and ad networks. There is a growing perception on the part of publishers that networks are not getting the correct price for their online advertising – and a view that they take too much of a cut for their service.

    It would be in the interests of publishers to use the ad exchanges to maximise their revenue potential.

    I wonder how far away from the “publisher ad trader” era we really are?

    I work in online sales, and I would like to get involved in this new exciting area. But there seems to be very little opportunities for entry at the minute except through the giant ad networks. But I am glad the AdExchanger is pushing the agenda.

    • I think we’re a year or two away from the true publisher ad trader. And, one may think that a year or two away is wishful thinking. But,if a few tools came on to the market, which they will, that enable publishers more control on their inventory AND which can be used on the exchange, well then we have a Gladwell-ian tipping point.

      Publishers just want to make more money. Hence the explosion of usage of yield optimization companies by pubs. Also, as pubs scramble, the global recession may be a good thing for exchanges. Thanks for your comment, Ciaran.