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The Ad Network Advantage


The online ad network has staged a dramatic comeback and once again forms a key part of most online media plans. The reasons for the momentum behind this trend are complex and varied, but I have highlighted four of the most important.

1. Increased reach into high quality environments

Access to media space from the biggest online media outlets is limited. Many companies can not afford the prices of ads on dominant portals such as AOL, Yahoo! or MSN. Big brands often tie up exclusive deals with these portals and pre-book the inventory.

In addition, the online media market is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented. Media consumption follows the same trend: Internet users are turning more and more to specialist outlets that offer them targeted and high quality content, which leads to higher costs and smaller audiences for publishers.

In a market where access to quality media is limited, ad networks offer advertisers increased reach into quality media environments. Networks are able to aggregate access to highly targeted, quality environments that offer incredible specificity in the B2C and B2B markets.

For media planners, getting reach and targeting at the same time is ideal. Take the example of locally targeted and geo-targeted campaigns. The yellow pages of the world are definitely not ready yet to offer both to advertisers.

Quality is also sustained by the input of media planners. They can now suggest new sites to ad networks that can be added to custom media buys. Ad networks are offering more and more transparency, revealing the list of publishers they work with and (just like in an affiliate program) you can opt-out of certain sites. Transparency and accuracy are backed up by industry authorities. (Media Metrix/BPA). The most recent example is BURST! Media, which has successfully passed five consecutive BPA audits.

Networks, therefore, can be powerful media planning tools.

2. Struggle for ROI

Ad networks offer media planners the option to switch to a CPA model on a long-term basis. Lead generation campaigns only work with volume, multiple touch points and low-entry cost.

The main reason network buys are successful in delivering good CPA is that they provide the branding and frequency element everybody tends to forget about.

Very often, one will notice post-impression conversion, which is a reminder that contextual advertising is important for branding and lead generation rather than just immediate direct sales.

Networks remind us of the basic rules of performance programs.

3. Audiences reactions are unpredictable

Audiences don't always behave the way we expect. It can be surprising to see where a household insurance company gets the best results from an online campaign -- a finance site or a travel site? Let’s look at the consumer mindset: On a personal finance site one might be busy checking shares levels; on a travel site a user is booking a holiday in the knowledge that he or she will be leaving the house exposed to burglars.

Acceleration recently conducted a campaign for a major car rental company and we found that most bookings were made by visitors that clicked through from entertainment and music sites rather than by ones who came from travel sites. 

More often than we realize, the mindset of the audience is much more important than its surfing environment. People don't do things in the order we expect them to; brand loyalty is on the decline, and comparison shopping is common practice.

Because audience behaviors are so unpredictable, it is important for media schedules to remain flexible so they can adapt quickly to guarantee that the best performing placements are retained against non-performing placements. With ad networks, inventory shift is easy and often automatically optimized based on the ROI delivered.

Networks remind us the importance of mindset and messaging.

4. Technology and targeting

Ad networks offer multiple targeting options like demographics, site genre, geography, day part and so on. They can optimize any campaign based on these variables. One of the most interesting options is behavior targeting: targeting by users' activity on the advertiser site. This reminds marketers that the most important thing for them is to understand their audience and how visitors interact with their products and services.

Media planners are used to referring to research and demographic data to build media plans. They are predicting a reaction. Now media planners should use Web site activity data and be proactive in optimizing their campaigns accordingly.

If a visitor leaves your site it is not necessarily because it is a bad lead, but perhaps because you served up the wrong landing page or did not provide the right information at the right time. This is where analytic tools can come into powerful play. Analytics solutions should be integrated with media planning.

Marketers should not only leverage ad network targeting and optimization technology but also make the most of Web site measurement and analytics solutions. Behavior targeting options include remarketing to somebody who abandoned the shopping cart -- a tactic that is proving successful for many marketers. This success is a reminder that you will always get a better ROI from previous visitors than new ones.

Is retention becoming a real part of media planning strategies? With such an eclectic media landscape and varied surfing behaviors, retaining first time visitors is becoming the media teams' responsibility. Media planners should add a second layer of pre-retention to their campaign in order to maximize performance.

Networks show us where media, analytics and retention teams should meet.

Media buyers have a huge selection of ad networks to choose from, offering a range of performance-based and behavioral targeting business models. As the fragmentation of the online media world continues unabated, we can expect them to play an increasingly important role in advertisers' online marketing strategies.

Julie Jeancolas, Media Director at Acceleration, has a marketing and finance degree from leading French business school ESC Reims. Formerly Group Account Director at Outrider, Jeancolas has worked around the world at leading traditional and online advertising and media agencies as a media specialist. Jeancolas heads up the media unit at Acceleration, the dynamic, results-orientated eMarketing services company that works with leading global marketers and advertising agencies to deliver a return on investment through the online platform.

Be a player in the news feed

People who share, comment, and act as contributing members of the LinkedIn community are the aspirational leaders. They have interest beyond finding a job and show a passion for their line of work.

The LinkedIn news feed is the Holy Grail for recruiters, and the more you post, the more you are seen. In fact, members who post at least once a week are 10 times more likely to be seen by recruiters. Post, read, and participate often.

Let LinkedIn be your Sherpa

LinkedIn is a self-perpetuating ecosystem. It makes sharing, joining, and connecting easy because that behavior benefits the site as much as it does the member. Be OK with that transaction and click "Improve My Profile" when prompted and do things like personalize your URL. LinkedIn offers a guided setup to help with these matters.

Follow LinkedIn's advice, but don't be afraid to discover on your own. It is just as important to show you understand how LinkedIn works as it is to show your ability to handle specific job duties. Those who exhibit a cursory knowledge of LinkedIn shine far less than those who confidently navigate through it.

Show some personality

Pictures, interests, hobbies, and volunteering are all fair game for your profile. Discuss them the way you would at a relaxed business dinner. It's important to let recruiters get a feel for who you are, not just what you do.

Remember, their job is to find people who can fulfill the duties but also fit into a company culture. Show recruiters you are the right fit both vocationally and socially for the job.

Make recruiters' jobs easier

My career began as an elf, swimming instructor (briefly), lifeguard, caterer, bellhop, maintenance man, retail associate, fast food employee (one day), parking monitor, ski-lift operator, production assistant, PR and media rep, and more. As different as those jobs seem, the duties were the same: to make my boss's job easier.

The same goes for recruiters. Don't meander, be long-winded, or bury the lead in your profile. Forget buzzwords. Please proofread and be worthy of consideration. And don't confuse the dynamics here with other social sites. Keep it professional, even with those you know personally. Every keystroke on the internet is captured and logged for eternity, so be smart and positive. LinkedIn is one big job interview -- even when it isn't.

Get specific with recommendation requests

Endorsements don't mean much. It's LinkedIn's simple way to trigger a news feed item. It's annoying, but ingenious. However, recruiters don't value these because it only takes a second of thought and a click to express.

On the other hand, recommendations offer much more value. It takes time, thought, and conscience to write one. Asking for recommendations makes a ton of sense, but be smart in how you do it. Be as specific as possible with your requests. General recommendations can be difficult to write. Focus the recommendation on a specific project, especially when it is fresh in everyone's minds. It will work out much better for all parties.

J. Barbush is VP and creative social media director at RPA Advertising.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Man thinking concept with question marks close up" image via Shutterstock.

Joined Carat Digital in December 2005 as Associate Director to manage Renault UK digital activity. Working closely with all client and Carat teams to ensure the delivery of an integrated communication strategy. Now heads up operations. Before...

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