The X Factor: Wake up, media planners!

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What is it with traditional offline brands that carry a delusional dream of their brand halo when it comes to selling advertising online? There may be some great business reasons that ESPN came up with for removing online ad networks from filling its online inventory. The quality of the advertisers diluted the company brand. It wanted to command higher CPM's. There are lots of reasons. Granted, they are all the ramblings of n00bs, but they are reasons.

Regardless, ESPN may smile all the way to the bank on this one. The company will improve the quality of its advertisers, and if it can sell everything at premium pricing, good for ESPN. In fact, ESPN may even rally some other publishers to join its cadre to beat back the expansion of online ad networks. But why would this succeed? Not because ESPN's ad placements are better. Not because it has found the secret of impacting consumers online. Not because the value to the buyer is more.

Why then? Because the marketers buying that inventory don't understand online advertising.

Why shouldn't they pay that higher premium? Because the halo of an offline brand may extend to the brand property online, but it does not fully extend to the value of that property for advertising. Here's why…

On television, ESPN controls immersive content, great programming and shows. It captures a specific audience at a specific time. If you want to reach that audience, at that specific time, you have to buy from ESPN. And what you buy has emotional impact. You sit back… content… content... content… COMMERCIAL… content… content. That commercial takes over the experience, and you lean back and consume it. It has high-quality video and audio that can evoke emotional responses in the way that online advertising cannot. And those emotional experiences carry weight over online.

There is show loyalty, celebrity loyalty and an association that consumers make with that show host. It is an emotional connection for them, and that connection is difficult to break. If the show or personality moves to another network, often so does the viewer.

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