Here we go again. Web advertising executives from companies that make money from the sale of advertising, without producing the content generating the ad impressions sold, will perch themselves on conference stages this month and tell everyone sitting below that what they are now selling is "it" -- the panacea to more effective advertising. Raise your hand if you have heard this one before?
This time "it" is the technical ability to make a media purchase through a DSP (demand-side buying platform) based on audience -- and "decoupled," as MediaPost's Joe Mandese eloquently described it, from the media content being consumed. Let me break this down with no acronyms and in real life.
While prepping for a seminar for a beauty and fashion brand, I burned through quite a few page views on a site I would not normally visit.
An ad sales entity other than the site publisher figured out I was reading content that did not match my audience profile. Insight -- collected without my direct consent, of course -- had me likely defined as a male, in his mid-forties and living in the greater New York area, who loves football. So, badabing, I was now seeing a leaderboard and a medium rectangle simultaneously served, asking me to click for information about purchasing New York Giants season tickets -- all on a page whose content encouraged me to look at new fall fashion trends.
Behavioral targeting like this is innovatively interesting. Having the opportunity to buy impressions targeted this way, without dealing with the content properties directly, is compellingly efficient. Bidding on the price and purchasing the impressions in real time brings complexities along with its incremental benefits. But is any of this "it"?
That's the mistake Web folks continue to make. They over-hype their solutions, thinking they are being asked to solve the problem of advertising, when all they need to do is uniquely complement the overall media plan. As a result, these companies and their executives come across as if they're saying the way media was bought and sold prior to their offering was all wrong.
I know this is going to incur the ire of one company in particular, but c'mon, even if it has another meaning or was completely unintentional, calling yourself "Right Media" is one example of this arrogant odor Web advertising executives exude (unintentionally, one would hope).
So is buying media in real time, based on audience and not context, the right answer to the question of how to make advertising work better? No. Matter of fact, it brings up a few questions. Since the ads are targeted based on the profile of my computer technically and not me, what happens when someone else uses my computer? How is that accounted for? And I read that one company in this new space (MediaBank) claims it will offer this kind of media-buying "across media." How do you account for multiple people with different audience profiles watching the same television or listening to the same radio?
And for the record, I was the very first member of the defunct North Eastern Minnesota Viking Fan Club, so my buying season tickets for the Giants had zero chance of happening.
Had the ads served on the site I was reviewing introduced me to shampoo or shaving gels designed for men in their forties, I would have been a better prospect. But even this unification of both approaches, which appears like a good idea, is not worthy of a "this is it" kind of positioning.
So before you take the stage or take a seat in front of a potential client, regardless of what kind of advertising solutions you sell, tone it down so your offerings can be heard as they are likely intended -- as an innovative and unique complement to an overall media and marketing communication plan.
No one has the single answer to the question of what works in advertising -- nor should they ever sound like they do.