Collective Media CEO Apprendi Says 2009 Is About Audience-centric Buying and Bigger, Richer Media

Collective MediaJoe Apprendi is CEO of Collective Media. Any trends/momentum you can share in your display ad business?

JA: There are two major trends that developed in 2008 and are really accelerating in 2009. The first is the shift from site-specific to audience-centric buying among brand advertisers. Agencies/Advertisers are realizing there are many ways to reach a target audience beyond conventional site/section targeting. Second, in response to this trend, there is a greater emphasis among brand-name publishers to create bigger, richer ad units to increase the effectiveness of ad creative beyond standard IAB ad sizes. Not only will this continue, it is a critical ingredient to the success of a display ad campaign.

How is technology impacting the online ad network space?

Ad technology is at the core of the most successful ad networks. Of the 400+ ad networks, 90% of them have no proprietary, differentiated technology. In fact, many simply provide services on top of existing ad exchanges. I believe that the market is recognizing the ad network players who are providing a meaningful platform that increases the effectiveness of their display advertising spend. This includes audience targeting, yield management and ad effectiveness analytics.

What will bring the brand awareness dollars online in a way that matches the time spent on the Web by the consumer?

There are a number of factors that prevent this shift from occurring as rapidly as we’d like, but a few of them are front and center. It just takes time for the agencies/advertisers to understand how online display/video compare to ‘tried and true’ offline tactics (TV, Print, Radio, etc.). This is an education process. As ‘digitally trained’ media decision-makers become the majority of buyers, you’ll see more spending coming online. More importantly, we need to provide a comparable ad format and buy methodology. This is especially true if we expect online video to steal share from TV/Cable. If the online market could buy a :30 spot based on a Nielsen Rating, we’d be much farther along here.

Your messaging references Collective Media’s ability to offer “full transparency.” How do you provide transparency but prevent channel conflict for partner publishers? What does “full transparency” mean?

This is a great question, because it is the most important component of maintaining strong relationships with our brand-name publishers. We sell target audiences, not sites. We never sell site specifically or report site specifically. This way, our publishers can continue to do what they do well while we provide a complementary ‘audience-targeting’ solution to the same agencies/advertisers that they are working with.

Agencies are starting to provide services that ad networks provide and visa versa. Do both models merge at some point? What will be the key differentiators?

Yes, they should absolutely be exploring ways to provide ad network technology and services to their clients. In fact, we operate very much like an agency ad network already. We just happen to service multiple agencies/advertisers in this regard vs. simply one holding company.

As technology provides real-time insight at the impression level, does it follow that more players, traders, networks (whatever you want to call them) will jump in rather than less?

As mentioned, if more display spending is moving towards ad network solutions, it’s likely that more players emerge. I think you’ll see leading diversified media companies, agencies and others step in to offer an ‘audience-centric’ solution to their advertisers. However, I don’t think you’ll see many more ad networks that offer any meaningful value beyond just a way to access commoditized ad impressions through ad exchanges. Differentiated technology, targeting and inventory matter most moving forward.

Can you discuss your AMP® platform and how you’re positioning it to publishers and advertisers?

AMP provides a turn-key technology platform for any company that wants to build or manage an audience network. To do this successfully you need a sophisticated audience targeting engine, ad network administration and reporting solution. Whether you’re an agency network or publisher network, this applies. A nice feature about AMP is that it fully integrates with DoubleClick’s DART ad server, so customers don’t need to rethink their ad serving solution to capitalize on the benefits that AMP provides.

What recommendations would you make to web publishers who are looking to create strategies that compensate for the recent plummet in CPMs?

They really have to pursue two paths in parallel. First, they need to maximize the value of their site-specific ad revenue. This involves better ad units, targeting data and inventory management. Second, they need to explore an audience-centric solution, whether by building their own ad network or partnering strategically with an ad network partner that can fully capitalize on this market opportunity. It’s not just one or the other – it’s both.

Where does Collective Media’s audience targeting data come from? How can advertisers be sure that it is accurate?

We acquired Personifi®, a leading semantic classification and audience targeting company last year. With this acquisition, we’ve created the AMP Audience Cloud™, which provides a centralized audience targeting platform for both contextual and behavioral targeting. We work with multiple third party data providers right now and continue to ad more based on advertising demand. One of the nice things about our platform is that we not only target against a myriad of audience segments, but we also provide complete reporting on what audience segments are working and which ones are not.

How important are audience analytics and what kinds of capabilities are available in this area?

I think this is the most important component of adding value to publishers and advertisers. You need to report on both data and metrics that are meaningful no matter what the objective. We do this. But beyond this is the business intelligence that can be extracted from a great analytics tool. This is where research, analysts and service in general play a symbiotic role in meeting the needs of our customers.

How does Collective use engagement metrics to help enhance how consumers view and interact with campaigns?

This capability is built into our ad platform. Clearly, clicks and conversions do not tell the complete story of the efficacy of a display ad campaign. In fact, they can be utterly misleading. This is where other metrics play an important role, especially for brand advertisers vs. direct marketers.

Will search retargeting in display inventory be a huge opportunity for advertisers and publishers if Google is able to solve privacy concerns? Has Collective Media had any success with Yahoo!’s search retargeting product?

It already is. This is a key source of retargeting data for our advertisers today. This coupled with site, email and ad retargeting will provide new, innovative data sources for our marketers to better optimize their display ad campaigns.

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1 Comment

  1. Joe, really enjoyed reading your interview, and I share many of your thoughts — especially the move toward audience-centric media buying vs. site-specific.

    First, it’s just so very expensive to implement a media buy across a large number of individual sites (reaffirmed by recent Publicis/Denuo study that found execution costs for an online media buy of 15-50% vs. 2-3% for typical offline buy). Buying a specific audience through scale/aggregation is much more efficient.

    Second, an audience-centric approach can help brand advertisers more precisely reach the folks they’re most interested in. (In fact, it’s interesting to see this online approach being used tentatively in the offline world — Google TV, through partnership with the Dish Network/Echostar, has been offering some really cool capabilities to serve up TV ads to specific demos/households). The caveat is this new approach opens up new issues that need to be resolved, namely providing assurances that media is placed only on sites that are brand consistent/with appropriate content/of an acceptable level of traffic quality.

    Net/net, it’s imperative that an audience centric approach becomes the norm — it’s foundational for brand advertisers to continue to migrate more and more spend online.