This past week, iMedia's semi-annual, pay-to-play, U.S. Brand Summit featured sponsored content from the Online Publishers Association (OPA), led by Pam Horan, which was intended to persuade brand marketers and, consequently, agency media buyers that there was no "future" like the "single site buy future."
The OPA's argument goes something like this: "Sure, Ms. Brand Marketer... You are going to be pay exorbitant CPMs based on who-knows-what, but at least you aren't stuck on those awful ad networks which can't control where your ad is seen - AND you get to tell your boss that you were on our gorgeous site. (Oh and by the way, Ms. B.M., we offload advertising inventory to ad networks, too, but that's besides the point.)"
We get the OPA point of view, but are disappointed that an industry event masquerades as even-handed with ad networks and exchanges such an important part of online advertising's future. Rich Cherecwich of iMedia Connection writes, "Ad networks are an easy solution, but there's no promise your ads will appear in an appropriate environment."
No doubt ad networks have their challenges, but so do single sites who bury advertiser impressions within inconsequential, if not irrelevant, content meant to hit advertisers target eCPMs. With overwhelmed, 23 year-old assistants at the agency pulling the post-campaign data, it's going to be tough to catch inconsistencies.
For brand marketers and their agencies, as liquidity improves, true market value will only be revealed with the exchange model.
Along with competitors, web publishers will offer their inventory on the exchange with soft/hard number data, historical campaign data (with or without GroupM) from the publisher or the exchange and its analytics partners, and anything else that will help the market determine pricing.
With the tools of the exchange (behavioral, contextual, geo-targeting, retargeting overlays and more tools yet to be realized), advertisers and agencies can buy and sell their media in real-time according to the value assigned by the open marketplace rather than the closed, black box of the antiquated model supported by OPA which does a disservice to its constituency.
Drink the koolaid of the exchange, OPA. If everyone works together, everyone gets the best deal possible.
Special bonus for the large website publisher: when your advertiser client comes along to buy from your site on the exchange, you can turn into a buyer using your acumen as a trader on the exchange and backfill inventory to match your client's campaign goals - and resell to your client. Suddenly you have a new source of revenue that you hadn't considered while sitting at an OPA annual meeting.
Say what you want about exchanges as a remnant inventory solution. The promise of exchanges is to match inventory across a wide range of buyers and sellers and make every publisher impression, potentially, premium.