iMedia: All indications are that there will be a continued escalation in online spending in 2007. Research shows that a large percentage of these budgets will come from brand advertisers. How are ad networks poised to assist brand advertisers with their ever-increasing online initiatives?
Kuntz: Ad networks are in a unique position to handle brand advertisers primarily because they can pinpoint a particular target audience on a large scale and in an effective manner. However, it has become crucial for advertisers with branding initiatives to understand how to use an ad network in a safe, efficient and quantifiable way. A byproduct of this reported spike in online branding dollars will be increased competition for online inventory and a subsequent rise in pricing. As a result, these advertisers must choose network partners that can provide immediate value that correlates to their unique marketing objectives, eliminating the need to waste time in testing and learning how to reach their goals.
iMedia: What offerings and capabilities can ad networks provide to brand advertisers specifically?
Kuntz: Since brand advertisers demand a more unique suite of services than performance marketers typically do, a greater level of customization is essential. The original ad network model was predicated on selling a product, while the evolution of the ad network has become more about selling a solution.
Transparency is another crucial element, as it is necessary to ensure that an advertiser's brand is aligned with appropriate content and targeted to the right audience.
The level of efficiency that a network provides to brand advertisers starts with the ability to manage a particular audience across multiple publisher sites. Brand advertisers are limited in their ability to manage frequency against a particular target audience when purchasing inventory on a site-by-site basis. In addition, it is often too labor intensive for an advertiser to maximize reach with as many individual publisher relationships as are necessary to be effective.
iMedia: Why have brand advertisers been reluctant to work with ?
Kuntz: While ad networks have made tremendous strides in gaining the trust of major advertisers and agencies over the past few years, a lack of transparency has continued to dissuade many brand advertisers from working with networks. This lack of transparency results from different ad networks having different policies regarding site disclosure. Some networks will tell you that contractual obligations prohibit them from disclosing sites while others provide complete disclosure of all their sites.
Brand advertisers are extremely sensitive to the possibility of tarnishing their brand by having their ads appear on a site where content does not coincide with their brand image. If a network is only willing to provide a "sample list," then there is always going to be a chance that the advertiser will be misled. With this in mind, it is imperative that all brand-conscious advertisers only work with ad networks that are completely forthcoming about where that advertiser's ads will run and the specific sites within their network.
iMedia: How can ad networks support a brand advertiser's offline initiatives?
Kuntz: Many brand advertisers are looking to ad networks to align their efforts with their offline initiatives by running in matching DMAs in order to deliver more of a "surround sound" marketing effect across media channels. They are also repurposing offline video spots to be integrated with rich media in-page video banners to deliver their message more effectively and in synergy. More advanced marketers are realizing that ad networks can effectively manage an online correlation of GRPs by controlling and optimizing reach and frequency against a desired target audience across multiple sites within one buy.
iMedia: What methods are there to measure the success of an online branding campaign?
Kuntz: To date, the most popular form of measurement for brand campaigns has been the use of market research companies, which help quantify brand impact using traditional brand metrics. These studies help measure the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns and identify the most powerful creative executions. Where they sometimes fall short is in providing a level of branding optimization that occurs throughout the campaign rather than "pre" and "post."
While click-through rates and interaction rates are looked at for optimization during the campaign, they also sometimes fall short at tying together the effectiveness in delivering a message to the appropriate target audience. More advanced marketers are beginning to demand a measurement of unique impressions delivered to their target audience, as well as a level of optimization of reach and frequency towards that audience throughout the campaign.
Jeff Kuntz is SVP business development for adNet, a MediaWhiz Holdings, Inc. company. .