Home The Sell Sider Publishers, It’s Time To Start Selling Advertisers On Quality, Not Quantity

Publishers, It’s Time To Start Selling Advertisers On Quality, Not Quantity

Alessandro De Zanche headshot

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Alessandro De Zanche, an audience and data strategy consultant.

Over the years, publishers have accused advertisers of rewarding media agencies and buyers through business models that prioritize the wrong metrics, favoring quantity over quality and overlooking the uniqueness of the media owner’s environment and content.

But this is only one side of the story.

In fact, media owners have been guilty of the same, still stuck in old propositions measured by quantity metrics and rewarding their commercial teams through outdated internal sales bonus schemes.

They are failing to empower their whole organizations, slowing down the evolution of their own position in the digital advertising ecosystem into a much more proactive, confident and financially self-sustainable role.

In a higher-quality, post-third-party-cookie digital advertising environment, media owners’ assets should not be monetized in isolation, as if they were screws and pins sold by the box at a DIY store.

Today, media owners are creators and gatekeepers of quality media environments, providers of engaging experiences and the bridge to advertisers’ products and services. While “quality” is a subjective concept, it becomes objective in advertising where there’s a set of measurable standards.

That’s why publishers have a massive responsibility to focus on quality. It is only after a holistic proposition from publishers that advertisers and agencies will change their ways and start prioritizing high-quality, curated environments. 

Media owners must put in the effort

From a product perspective, media owners need to translate the concept of “higher quality” into tools leading to measurable outcomes. For example, metrics that express audience engagement and the benefits of advertising in their environments.

This should also impact the way they package and price their products, where an advertiser is buying based on quality metrics rather than just quantity. This is more appropriate for long-tail measurement.


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For example, a few years ago, the Financial Times introduced the concept of “cost per hour” (CPH), including viewability metrics expressing real engagement in human terms. Adoption of that metric was very low among other media owners because, a few said, it would take too much work.

Attention and quality metrics shouldn’t be based on the ad slot alone, but also linked to engagement with the page and the overall content, including the number of ads on the page and the positioning or design of the ad placement.

Building a quality proposition 

How quality is sold makes a difference. Senior media executives must take a consultative approach where publishers listen to – and understand – advertisers’ needs before providing recommendations. It’s essential for them to present a smart timeline that demonstrates how a sale becomes a long-term involvement, not just one-time revenue.  

An approach that must become ingrained in media owners’ strategy, encouraged, documented, tracked, measured.

Internally, the way media owners’ sales teams are rewarded must also be reviewed and rethought. If their bonuses rely solely on end-of-quarter or end-of-year revenue, then we cannot be surprised if the resulting advertiser relationships will reflect that narrowness and hit a low ceiling.

Instead, it’s necessary to create a different formula. For example, one where steady revenue growth from an individual client is rewarded differently than a declining one. In any case, they must avoid a frantic, quota-driven rush that requires a “whatever it takes” approach and tramples over principles and quality.

Investing in quality

If quality remains in the “nice to have” box for media sales teams, it won’t be even noticed by advertisers.

There is an opportunity to start a debate over one of the most ignored aspects in the evolution of media brands: Building a quality proposition takes much more time, effort and resources than one based on quantity.

The seal of advertising quality is not assigned by divine right. It requires a consistent, razor-sharp focus on building, promoting and rewarding value, inside and outside the media owner’s organization.

​​Follow Alessandro De Zanche (@adzandads) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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