I think ad networks lie, and I think senior managers at publishing companies with a direct sales team, who also sell off inventory through ad networks, are addicted to booking this unsound revenue in an attempt to meet their personal quota, in spite of the harm this "use" has on the very salespeople they are paid to manage.
Before you attack my opinion, ask yourself: Does using an ad network help a direct sales team more than it hurts them?
If your answer is no, then why do anything to clog your company's main revenue arteries? Selling media is hard enough; how can competing against your own inventory sold by others at lower prices help your sales team more than it hurts them?
If your answer is yes, ad network monthly payouts are doing more good than harm to your own sales team, then I suggest you walk and talk further with the folks you send out to the streets for battle each day.
As for the lying, not all ad networks lie. I just think they do, and here's why. Are you aware of any other medium in which clients agree to make a media investment with the condition that they are not allowed to know what content properties their ads will appear on? And yet ad networks publicly contend they protect the identity of the content brands they siphon inventory from, by offering clients buys on a "blind basis." So you mean to tell me, ad network sales reps calling on Nike, for example, who may have well regarded-sports sites in their bag of impressions, aren't going to let buyers know that as part of their blind buy, their ads will appear on sites "like SI.com?"
Even when ad network sales reps don't tell buyers what sites they will likely appear on, clients tell ad networks which sites need to be blocked in order to earn their buy -- leaving a clear indication of which sites they will run on. Whatever scenario, clients don't buy anything else blindly -- but we are supposed to believe they do with ad networks, to help protect the desire for discretion by premium publishers?
Ad networks lie when they publicly claim that channel conflict with their publishing partners is a non-issue because they call on different budgets. The thing is, there is only one budget -- the client's. How this overall budget gets sliced is driven in large part by the companies who vie for these dollars. So if ad networks grow their slice, it must come at the expense of another slice -- perhaps the one your direct sales team is calling on.
Ad networks create further channel conflict by proclaiming that the impressions they sell, furnished by publishers, "work better" than the impressions publishers sell directly. This sales claim increases the pressure on your direct sales team to create complex, resource-straining programs in order to earn buys directly because the plain old media impressions they have to sell can be bought cheaper and "apparently" work better when purchased from someone else.
Finally, remember those clients involved in not-so-blind buys with ad networks are not so blind to the price they pay for anything. So when a premium publisher who can be bought through an ad network tries to sell something directly, the ad networks want us to believe their sale price for your inventory will have no influence on the cost pressures this same client will apply to your direct sales efforts. So tell me again how this channel conflict doesn't really exist?
Back when I was at IGN and was promoted to lead ad sales, the first thing I did was cut all ties with ad networks despite the constant pressures to use them levied by my CEO, others on the executive team and the ad networks themselves. I simply would not tolerate having any of my salespeople selling against their own inventory offered by others at lower prices. My salespeople's jobs were challenging enough. It was my job to make theirs easier to achieve success, not harder. IGN did not suffer from this decision; it flourished.
Isn't it time to support your own sales team by letting go of the challenges working with ad networks poses for them?