Putting Lipstick On The Banner
It was easily the quote of the day -- or maybe the month. SVnetwork's Chris Rooke must have been reading one of countless articles on the latest and greatest new targeting/DSP/social ad networks hoping for something new, when he just exclaimed to the office "They are just putting lipstick on a banner!" I am not even sure which article he was reading at the time, but besides making me laugh, those words got me thinking about how the digital advertising industry seems to be avoiding problems rather than solving them.
Your banners aren't working? Let's add another layer of data for targeting! It seems that the more sophisticated the targeting systems get, and the more efficient the buying platforms look, the easier it is to forget that it wasn't the targeting that was broken, it was the vehicle. But the fact is, new targeting methods can help justify media buys that don't see direct interaction, because how else can we measure?
Your banners aren't working? Try buying more! Because when targeting isn't enough, volume and retargeting comes next. As CPMs are pushed downward for banners (again, because they are not effective for advertisers), publishers and banner networks look to differentiate based on something to justify a price above the abysmal average. The issue is that no matter how much lipstick you put on a banner, it's still a banner at the end of the day. And study after study shows that banners are ineffective at demand creation because they don't capture consumers' attention. So does more targeting mean that the right consumers are now ignoring your ad?
The issue is that brands are looking for demand creation, which requires consumer attention to a message. Most of these messages are difficult to deliver in a static or flash image alongside content. Advertisers need publishers to find ways to deliver consumers' attention. Targeting works great on demand capture (further down the funnel). A better algorithm leads to better results when you are looking to capture existing demand (finding those consumers who already want a product), but demand creation, the bulk of brand advertising budgets, is a very different story.