Forbes Expands Guaranteed Ad Program

James Spanfeller of ForbesSeeking to lure more brand dollars online, Forbes.com is extending its ad guarantee program focusing on brand lift to also include reach and frequency.

Under the new Total Guarantee initiative, marketers will be able to specify how many people they want to reach within their target audience and how frequently they want to put messages in front of them on the financial site.

Advertisers have to pay to play--the program requires a minimum spend of $1 million over 90 days. To verify results, ad server logs will be audited during campaigns for reach and frequency by third-party firms such as Ernst & Young.

The new offering builds on an existing Forbes ad program launched in 2003 for campaigns of at least $150,000 and 60 days that guarantees an increase in one of four branding metrics--awareness, message association, brand favorability or purchase--or marketers get their money back.

Forbes said that 100 marketers to date had signed onto the Brand Increase Guarantee. With its latest offering, the company hopes to convince more brands to shift spending online by emphasizing traditional ad-buying standards.

"One of the things about getting offline folks to think about online branding is by using traditional metrics such as reach and frequency," said Jim Spanfeller, president and CEO of Forbes.com. "We're trying to take as much of the guesswork and angst about moving branding dollars online as we possibly can."

Up until now, he said he was not aware of any other publishers guaranteeing reach and frequency goals, as well as ad effectiveness. He added that the number of impressions for a given campaign also would be guaranteed, but varies depending on the types of ad placements.

Spanfeller has advocated against the proliferation of third-party ad networks as devaluing Web content and the Internet's promise as a brand advertising medium. Like other top publishers, Forbes.com has responded to the perceived commoditization of online advertising by starting its own specialized ad networks to gain more control over inventory.

The expansion of its guaranteed ad deal is another way for Forbes.com to position itself to land lucrative brand campaigns. So far, Spanfeller said the new plan had generated interest among advertisers, but none had yet formally signed on.

With 20 million unique visitors a month and a highly affluent audience, Spanfeller said spending on Forbes.com is still "not nearly enough to take advantage of the reach and quality of the site." ComScore estimates the site's traffic substantially lower, at almost 6 million, as of August.

Forbes.com has partnered with Ernst & Young to handle auditing for the Total Guarantee program, but will allow marketers to choose an acceptable alternative to audit reach and frequency. Similarly, advertisers can choose among firms such as Dynamic Logic and Insight Express for measuring ad effectiveness.

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