I read with interest on blind ad networks. I find Mr. Viebranz's attempt to disqualify blind ad networks as problematic for advertisers in general, and brand advertisers in particular, to be out of place. Moreover, by encouraging advertisers to direct their budgets exclusively to branded content sites that make up his network, he discounts the importance of site audience and the ability of behavioral-targeting technology to deliver the right ad to the right audience, wherever that audience may be found.
While Mr. Viebranz is correct to sympathize with the folks at Cingular, Priceline and Travelocity -- following the allegations that their ads appeared on spyware applications -- his implication that a placement on a blind-ad network could be delivered on spyware is exaggerated. Most blind networks are spyware-free, enable advertisers to exclude the delivery of advertisements next to certain types of content (adult, gambling, political, et cetera), and provide advertisers with reach and frequency that most individual sites will never be able to provide.
So, blind ad networks provide tremendous value to the internet advertising landscape and are no less appropriate a destination for an advertiser's media buy than branded content sites. Both require due diligence on the advertiser's part to confirm that advertising will be delivered to the appropriate target audience in an appropriate environment.
Mr. Viebranz asks how a buyer or client could possibly "judge the quality of the placements they are buying if the buy is blind." He states that it is all "about ensuring proper placements" and "that the ads are seen by the right people in the right places."
While Mr. Viebranz is correct in emphasizing the importance of ads being "seen by the right people," he might be forgetting that a quality site is not defined by its content, but rather, by its audience. A site is considered a "quality site" if it attracts a quality audience as defined by their income, education, et cetera.
In the offline model, which Mr. Viebranz is very familiar with, advertisers buy a placement in a "quality" magazine since they have no better way of reaching their target audience. For example, while a luxury car manufacturer would ideally deliver ads exclusively to readers who recently searched for luxury cars, this is not an option in the offline world, making it necessary for advertisers to reach their target client in reverse via media-buys on "quality publications/sites" frequented by readers with both high income and education who are assumed to be the appropriate target audience for the purchase of a luxury car. Some may be, though some may not be, bringing to mind John Wanamaker's famous expression "I know half my advertising is wasted; I just don't know which half."
While wasting half your media budget may be acceptable in an offline world hampered with technological limitations, in the online world we are fortunate to have behavioral-targeting technology that enables us to identify site or network visitors as people who recently searched for a luxury car, or a mortgage et cetera. Given that we can identify the correct audience for a product and deliver an ad directly to it, does it matter if the ad is delivered on a "quality" news site or on a "non-quality" web-based email site?
If a quality placement is defined as a placement that enables us to reach our target audience, just like in the offline world, the content should not matter assuming it is not spyware and not anything inappropriate such as adult, gambling, political, et cetera. Does it make sense to assume that the same person who recently searched for a luxury car is a high-quality ad placement target on site A and a poor-quality ad placement target on network B?
The answer is clearly no, according to research studies demonstrating that behavioral ads work better out-of-context than in-context. To name a few studies:
- TACODA's own January 2006 Eye Tracking study reveals that the same ads receive +17 percent more looks when seen on unrelated-content sites than when seen on sites specializing in the sale of those types of products.
- Blue Lithium Labs' October 2006 study reveals that the overall clickthrough rate (CTR) for behaviorally targeted ads shown in a different content category than that of the behavior is 108 percent higher than ads shown in the same category. The same study also reveals that the overall conversion rate or action-thru-rate (ATR) for behaviorally targeted ads shown out of context is 19 percent higher than for behaviorally targeted ads shown in context.
The proof is in the pudding: Advertisers who wish to reach their target audience can reach them and even achieve superior results while reaching them wherever they go on sites that are unrelated to the content of their ads. If that's the case and the quality of the placement is determined by the viewer and not the site, there is no advantage in placing an ad on a supposed "high quality" site versus an unknown "poor-quality" site, so long as the advertiser is guaranteed that the network it works with can exclude adult, gambling, political, or other questionable content.
Roy Shkedi is CEO and founder of AlmondNet, a behavioral targeting media and advertising company in New York. .