The Best Defense Is A Good Offense: Hate The Network? Be The Network!
Football teams often strategize that the best way to control their opponent's potent offense is to keep the ball away from the other team, running a so-called "ball control" offense that is equally about holding the ball for a long time on the game clock and about scoring points. It is axiomatic that the best way to avoid being on the defensive in business, sports or war, is to be on the offense. This certainly applies to the conversation Ari Rosenberg has started and pushed forward with respect to the sales problems associated with offering inventory through advertising networks, and the focus of buyers on buying networks and using DSPs.
The most successful Internet publishers I have been associated with have moved beyond the limits imposed by selling only their own limited inventory. Kaboose.com, for instance, before it was sold to Disney, formed its own network of other mommy and parenting sites and blogs to increase the inventory it could sell. This made the Kaboose sales force more important to the clients it was calling upon because it could propose and deliver bigger packages meeting another of the needs of its advertising client base; to make a few easy-to-manage big purchases rather than many smaller and more difficult-to-manage buys. At the time it was necessary to invest in business development efforts to assemble the network, getting them each to plug the code into their pages to query the Kaboose ad server for display units.
The advent of DSPs has made it easier for a publisher bundle a really large solution for a client; one that includes its own inventory and special content/community solutions that address the highest value needs of a marketer, AND additional inventory purchased off an exchange. The average CPM of a big package that includes premium inventory on the publisher's site can be brought down by purchasing and bundling third-party inventory with the premium package.
We do business in an unforgiving world of extreme competition. New ways of thinking, new strategies and new skills are needed. It is not enough today for salespeople to connect with clients and agency-buyers (which is hard enough) and say "I have a really good audience for you; do you want to buy some of my inventory?" The sales process needs to get to a higher plane, figuratively and literally.
Salespeople for digital publishers can do a better job of "solution selling" by probing for needs, and assembling and proposing genuinely complete marketing solutions. These solutions can include not only multiple digital aspects, but even off-line marketing components and research to validate their effectiveness. These proposals can even include the creative if necessary. This might put media companies directly in competition with creative agencies - but, strangely, sometimes in league with the sister media buying agency of the creative shop. And by utilizing a network or DSP, the media company making the proposal is not even limited to their own inventory when proposing and delivering such a package.
By pursuing this strategy of selling more complete solutions, salespeople can get appointments at a higher level within the client or agency organization, with individuals who are focused on getting merchandise or services sold, not just driving down their "cost per point." Proposing and selling an advertiser solution that is a so-called "integrated package" that includes more than a single media is a key strategy for all publishers. Major publishers already do this; proffering multimedia integrated packages that often include an on-the-ground event that is desired by the client and not a commodity. In this fashion major publishers cream off the top of major brand budgets before they even get to the RFP stage that the other publishers then compete over.
Because advertising agencies have moved beyond their role of being creative developers and media buyers, to becoming media owners and distributors, they have invited a counter-offensive from publishers who can and should be competing on the new playing field; utilizing the tools now available, like DSPs, to compete at the highest levels of the decision-making chain for the largest pieces of the budget.
Editor's Note: Here's a clarification from Online Publishing Insider Ari Rosenberg: "In last week's column ("Dire Straits"), I pointed at the NYTimes.com as a brand that allows third party channels to sell their inventory based on the company's use of Google Adsense. I later learned that the NYTimes.com does not allocate any unsold inventory to ad networks or ad exchanges, and that their Adsense agreement blocks over 4,000 national advertisers.
Although I believe running Adsense devalues a content site's perceived value, at the very least I painted an inaccurate picture of how the NYTimes.com handles the pressures of third party sales channels. I regret this error, especially since they are doing exactly what I hope all content branded sites do: not making their inventory available on ad exchanges or through ad networks."