Mediasmith CEO David Smith Says Brand Safety Remains Top Concern With Ad Exchanges

Dave Smith of MediasmithDavid Smith is CEO of Mediasmith, a digital advertising media agency. What trends can you share with us regarding the media buying you’re doing on behalf of clients today?

DS: There is a lot of change happening in the area of digital media strategy, planning and message distribution. Please notice that we’ve walked away from the term buying as we are increasingly in the message distribution business. That includes media buys, but also includes “owned media”, a client’s own assets, including their web sites, blogs, newsletters, etc. and earned media. What used to be PR but is increasingly in the hands of media as it is digital and measureable.

The incursion of social media into the messaging that goes on to consumers, among consumers and is also driven by consumers back to the companies they do business with represents a whole different world than the world of push media.

See my blog Media Tech for a look at this visually.

Social messaging is rapidly becoming the majority of impressions that consumers take in. So we must not only be involved in using social media for paid messaging, we must figure out how to become part of the conversation with the customers of our clients, as well as monitor the discussion in the blogosphere, twitter, social sites, etc. There are a number of new tools that are being used to do everything from deploy media (third party content servers) to measure media deployed and also to measure the consumer conversation. As such, the world of metrics is getting much more complex.

Are ad exchanges changing the digital media plan? Does brand safety remain a concern?

Brand safety is absolutely a top concern relative to ad exchanges. So is content relevancy and the reverse, adjacency to content that is considered detrimental to the client message. Overall transparency remains an issue. Exchanges need to implement technology solutions that block malware, negative content and provide greater transparency. Most of them claim they do this but the effect of their efforts is poor at best according to some monitoring reports I have seen. For the efficiency and performance parts of our plans, we feel more comfortable with marketplaces (defined site lists) and transparent networks with proven track records.

Do you see the potential for ad networks to disintermediate agencies?

Not really. They cannot provide the cross media strategic planning capability, account management (so much of dealing with clients is not the annual plan or buy) or other service issues required by a client as they generally represent only a small part of the solution. They can be important, depending on the strategy but content remains the gold standard in targeting against which you layer other services and targeting methodologies. Lastly, the networks are not equipped to do the kind of cross media or cross vehicle tracking, optimization and reporting required by clients.

Are you focused on media trading, yet? And your clients – do they “get” media trading or do they just need to know that ROI goals are being achieved?

ROI cannot be achieved in a vacuum. If content did not matter, we could run ads on porn sites which are very cheap and can be very effective. Media trading needs to be improved and made more transparent before it becomes mainstream for the advertiser concerned with their brand image.

Do your clients accept view-through conversions as a metric?

It really depends on the sophistication of the client. If the client is a marketer, the odds are better. But if they are a web group driven by Omniture or Web Trends, which do not do well relative to advertising evaluation (view through, clickthrough and engagement), the are sometimes against it. It is growing in its acceptance though.

Are you satisfied with attribution models currently available? See any potential solutions out there?

Not satisfied at all with the attribution models. They seem to have given us ten times as much data with little to recommend in the way of proven algorithms by which to evaluate and tweak the data. If someone has a methodology, we are all ears. Once that gets solved between web and search, we’ll need to rope in everything from newsletters to mobile and digital TV. So there is a long, long way to go.

Has your company been using data exchanges? If so, have you been happy with their performance? Any insight you can provide on the complexity of implementing a “data-infused” campaign?

We certainly use data relative to our campaigns. In reality the most effective “data infused” campaign is retargeting using our own cookie pool. This is an efficient way to get that additional frequency needed against someone who has interacted with our campaign in a contextually appropriate environment. That said, we are about to begin testing Quantcast for this purpose as well as some social targeting data options. For the right client, there is also the capability to target current customers with upgrade and additional item offerings.

Do monopolies concern you as it relates to online advertising? For example, there are primarily two major ad serving companies – DART and Atlas. Do their “parents” pose a risk to the agency? Or has it been blown out of proportion?

Actually, we look forward to the infusion of capital, innovation and technology updates that Google and Microsoft can provide DoubleClick and Atlas. Both platforms were in need of serious makeover, in addition to integrating web serving capability with that of other media, marketplace and exchange backbones, rfp and housekeeping systems, dashboard for all media, etc. The standalone companies simply did not have the capital to make the necessary improvements in the category. And there are always a lot of other options out there, including smaller agency/advertiser oriented ad servers, a new generation of ad tagging (4G) that could eliminate the need to had third parties serve the ads and more technologies that could leapfrog both services as they are today. Out of proportion, definitely. BTW-prices are lower than ever.

How can digital media planners and buyers position themselves today for a successful digital media buying career?

Don’t let them put you in a silo. Learn how to be strategic and plan. Question everything, but back it up with numbers. For example, for more than half of the clients that come into Mediasmith, we provide evidence for them to refine or even change their target audience. This ads value to your clients and ensures long term employment.

Follow David Smith (@mediadls), Mediasmith (@MediasmithInc) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. It is good to see David and Mediasmith approaching this space. The more San Francisco people the better, maybe I won’t have to fly out to NYC so often…

    Keep up the great work John.