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5 smart ways to use ad networks

5 smart ways to use ad networks Tony Winders

Whether or not they are regularly part of your media strategy, many marketers are exploiting some interesting techniques to drive their campaign performance.

In recent years, the ad network model has proven to be one of the largest, most cost-effective and optimized platforms for delivering scalable online advertising campaigns. Now, at the behest of their clients, large networks are extending their offerings to increase this performance.

Here are five techniques to better use ad networks to improve your current campaign performance. While not all of these techniques are necessarily new to online advertising, some have gone beyond their originally intended uses, and others should be revisited for their ability to drive overall campaign performance. 

Author notes: Tony Winders is VP of marketing at ValueClick Media. Read full bio.

Networks that have created exclusive or semi-exclusive sales relationships with their publishers have the ability to give marketers, especially brands, the ability to deliver a more immersive experience for consumers.

Integration within the content of sites that reach a marketer's target audience is invaluable for engaging visitors. Specific content integration techniques can include sponsorships, micro-sites, promotions and "wall papering" -- the technique of having the brand integrated into the background artwork of the site.

A content integration strategy was used effectively by Optimedia to build awareness of Puma soccer gear by including ad placements in targeted content areas, including a custom channel of soccer enthusiast sites within the ValueClick Media network. The result was significantly higher awareness of the Puma brand message, online product sales and store locator look-ups. 


Ad networks are increasingly considered a staple of every campaign for their ability to improve overall campaign metrics. Deploying one or more of these five techniques will provide you with even more opportunity to increase campaign-wide performance from your online advertising investment.

Savvy clients now carry out multiple test campaigns to identify appropriate targeting within a network to achieve maximum performance. But in fact, even for clients running a single campaign, testing is going on constantly within the ad network model. By virtue of having thousands of sites to choose from, a network's technology automatically identifies what sites should continue to show a campaign's creative to achieve the highest ROI. Thus, a network's optimization technology itself is a form of campaign testing.

More traditional methods of testing include copy and concept testing prior to the roll-out of a campaign to ensure a message is resonating well with the target audience.

The importance of creative testing also highlights the ability of networks to achieve lift in key brand metrics. Increasingly marketers are turning to ad networks for their extensive reach, transparency and cost-efficiency to deliver measurable brand advertising performance.

Many marketers have found significant lift in performance when using re-targeting technology -- the technique of re-marketing to visitors who have previously expressed an interest in that marketer when its message appears on sites across the ad network. But now, a few savvy marketers have gone beyond just placing re-targeting pixel tags on their web pages, realizing that they can also include these tags in their ad creative.

Users who are served Flash creative, or who click on a standard banner, can be issued a cookie that will identify them at a later time when they appear on the network. This technique can be used to cost-effectively increase the frequency of exposure among an expensive or difficult to find niche audience.

Sequential messaging
Also known as storyboarding, sequential messaging strategies are intended to deliver creative based on what is known about a prospect's stage in the purchase process or relationship with the brand. At each point of the purchase cycle, sequential messaging enables marketers to present information with a unique continuity to communicate with consumers in more compelling ways. 

As marketers have known for ages, repetition is the key to recollection. Accordingly, to ensure high repetition, marketers typically use "roadblock" advertisements to reach 100 percent of the visitors to a particular website within a short period of time. Loyal website visitors often see such roadblocks multiple times per day, while marketers are guaranteed that even intermittent visitors will be exposed to their messages at least once.

The network blast strategy -- the ad network equivalent of roadblocking -- is ideal for driving a high volume of impressions within a short amount of time. Network blasts are perfect for major product launches, live events, premieres and political races promoting any sort of time sensitive information. Earlier this year, Spark Communications deployed a network blast on ValueClick Media to achieve awareness of the program "Burn Notice" in the hours leading up to its airing on USA Network.  

Because ad networks partner with thousands of websites, messages broadcast on ad networks tend to have a greater psychological impact on visitors than merely seeing the same ad on the same portal. Thus, a network blast will drive high impact awareness across a major portion of the internet audience within a short time span using the extensive reach of the ad network model.

Tony Winders is a digital marketing pioneer whose leadership, creativity, strategic insights and integrated programs have contributed to the success of hundreds of consumer and B2B campaigns over the past 20 years. As principal in Winders...

View full biography


to leave comments.

Commenter: Russell Rockefeller

2007, December 29

I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to looking for direct revenue from advertising, but there is certainly something to be said for the value of branding.
If you look at any of the most highly successful Internet centric companies you'll find that they have established brand. I think the push in 2008 will be to merge branding & performance marketing together.

Commenter: John Songok

2007, November 21

This site will enable me to start my internet business easly and also propel the company to greater heights.
By being amember i will be able to interact with people across the globe fast and efficiently.

Commenter: Cavan Chasan

2007, October 17

This article is a great summary of the technologies now available to digital marketers. Re-targeting and sequential messaging afford not only immediate frequency, but pertinent frequency.