You Can't Always Get What You Want... Unless You Ask

By Jim Meskauskas

"Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." - John 16:24

Though you've probably suspected it yourselves for quite some time, there's no denying it any longer: the bulk of online media inventory is boring!

Yes, boring. Media plan after media plan, buy after buy, on site after site, the same drab inventory is up for sale. It's ROS (run-of-site), category rotation, topical channel placement, or the ever-unpopular buttons and text links. It's all usually available for very negotiable CPMs, particularly given the state of affairs in today's online media marketplace. If it is a site that finds itself with a glut of unsold inventory, as many do now, you can get this entire suite of run-of-the-mill inventory on a CPC basis.

This isn't for a lack of trying on the part of publishers. They have demonstrated time and again that, for the right price, they'll compromise the integrity of their editorial format for a unique size, shape and positioned ad placement.



But rapid growth, a need for standards all advertisers can adhere to easily, and a "sell it fast, sell it all" dictate from within, publishers settled on the CASIE standards ( for ad unit sizes and the industry quickly accepted the top of page/above the fold placement of the ad banner.

There were plenty of reasons for doing this. Traditional media has some very well established standards for placement and specs for advertising assets. Newspapers run ad units measured in column. Magazine ads are traditionally 8 1/2" x 11," or fractions thereof. TV is a standard :30 seconds and runs at scheduled breaks in programming.

Once these conventions were established, however, it did not mean they were the only ones accepted. You can see it most in print advertising, with odd-sized units or polybagged product samples. But merchandising packages put together by broadcast media vendors are such things, like live remotes from a store opening on radio, or a product placement on television (think of televised sporting events for the most obvious demonstration of this).

But why do these kinds of things? Isn't the reason that standard methods of messaging developed were because it works? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Well, the standard convention doesn't always work. That is not a secret. The old Wannamaker saying has always gone that 50% of advertising dollars aren't working; it's just a matter of knowing what 50%. It all comes down to maximizing the effect of media with non-traditional messaging opportunities that have media value and new ways of seeing how it works.

It is no different in the online ad space, only now what has been brought to the equation is causal, rather than correlative, accountability. I know what is working when it is working and I can affect change almost immediately. I can manipulate my messaging, my creative format, and the vehicles where I place my adve

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