Reducing Friction For The End User in Online Display Advertising

Reducing Friction in Display AdvertisingAs the technology mashup evolves in digital advertising, the effective management of data is bringing increasing transparency and control for buyers and sellers of online media.

ROI, CPA, CPM, KPI, CTR – a rapper’s dream! – and other acronyms abound as we quantify the ongoing optimization of media.

But, where is the user in all this? Are we just living off the poor bastard? Will future privacy restrictions be the user’s revenge?

There’s a great thread on optimization which begins with a post by Varick’s Darren Herman. Improving overall media performance these days remains relatively manual, all things considered. There is no magic dial for optimizing display across the three different silos of creative, contextual/semantic and behavioral/demographic framed succinctly here by Greg Hills. To a degree, “the struggle” continues on the buy side to manually find just the right settings for client campaigns.

And, though the goal of the right settings leads to profits and happy clients, does it lead to a happy user? As it stands right now in an open auction of the display ad exchange, yes and no.

If media is not performing (whether a view-through, click-through or other attribution metric), it’s because the user may not care, may not like it – or maybe they don’t even see the ad anymore due to banner blindness. Who’s fault is that? Not the user, of course. With this feedback, the media buyer likely stops sending the poorly performing ads which is relatively good for the user.

Editor’s note: ad blindness does not count as reducing friction.

It follows that if the media is performing well, the user is getting what he or she wants. Friction between the user and advertising has been reduced. “That was easy.” But, the real-time biddable future of the exchange may need to adjust as the highest bid won’t necessarily be the ad that provides the best experience for the user or serve the publisher’s interests. Jonathan Mendez notes in Darren’s post, “There must be systems in place that are woven into the publishers performance goals and objectives. This can’t be stand-alone buy side.”

Moving The Search Ethos To Display

As we all know, Google’s search engine advertising machine has set the standard for a relatively frictionless experience as users are served ads which perform like content. Unlike the open auction, the ads that are clicked on more by the end user (along with landing page interactions, creative considerations and more) and presumably providing more value during the search experience, are rewarded with discounted bid options. Ads with the highest bid don’t necessarily win. Ads that perform well by providing real value and less friction do.

Yes, yes… agreed that the search experience is different – it’s about fulfillment versus display’s interest-generating attributes. But there’s no reason display can’t compress the purchase funnel. The goal should be the same within the open auction of the exchange as it is in Google’s search: give the user value and reduce the friction between ads and the user experience.

Paradoxically, if real benefits are proven for the end user with the use of anonymous tracking data, this could allay concerns around privacy. You give, you get. Perhaps (hold on to your hats) exchanges using PII could make sense where users agree to be identified and are somehow compensated accordingly. But, that’s a ways down the road.

Publishers Lose? No, They Win Like Everyone Else

To clarify for publishers who might be the first to say, “Oh great, I’m going to lose revenues if I don’t receive the highest bid,” the reasoning should go something like this: “Ms. or Mr. Publisher, your website’s visitors are going to be happier than ever as you provide more relevant content (in the form of advertiser products and services) to the user. By rewarding advertisers, you increase the value of your website in the eyes of visitors and open up new opportunities – not just display advertising. For example, site visitors may be more willing to buy from you in ways such as subscriptions and other micro-transactions as you have built trust with your user base.” Yes – sell-side benefits!

In digital media, the goal should be a frictionless user experience. Though it may be unattainable in its most perfect form, there is no reason that with technology’s help we can’t continually make incremental steps.

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