Commentary

Looking Back - Learning from the year 2002

The writing I do produces a lot of learning. And it does not always get the response I expect. (Which is good). When you write regularly, you think you have it down cold and then somebody comes in and levels you, trying to show you how stupid your position is. The two-way dialogue of the Web is a very humbling experience. But, it is also exhilarating. You also get to enjoy the kudos of your peers, make contact with folks that you may not have talked to in a long time, and most of all, learn. In the end, I am in the media business because it keeps my brain going. And the writing I have been doing over the past several years helps me to learn a tremendous amount.

This article, my last of the year, (I am going on a several week break to take my family to Thailand for the holidays) will recap some of the things that I have learned from articles published in the first six months of 2002. My first article in 2003 will comprise the learning of the second six months. There is no way in the limited space that I have that I can deal with every comment on every article, so this article by definition will be summary of the highlights.

CPA Deals

Talk about setting myself up as a target! I have seldom written about any topic that was such a lightning rod. I posted several articles on this topic, the first in MediaDailyNews on 1/14/02 and again on 4/15/02 in an article in Online Spin (Accounting For The Total Value of Non-CPM Buys). Many readers took the fact that I wrote about CPA as endorsing the concept. I do believe it is a tool that if used properly can be effective. But my point in these articles was that few use it properly. There were a number of postings and emails from individuals on both the agency and the site side who feel that they are getting ripped off. There seems to be strong support for having better systems for properly crediting sales achieved. David Greenwald correctly griped about “too many creative formulas that result in sites not getting paid.” Others want to see post impression tracking and the true (lifetime) value of the deal attributed to the sites. And all seem to want a more affordable way to run these deals through third party ad servers. All of who say that they are working on an affordable fix that could be available “real soon now.”

Agency and site operations

The back room part of our business was the subject of an article on 2/11/02 in MediaDailyNews called The Hangover and touched on in later issues. More than half a year later, these problems persist. The AAAA is still working with sites to get a single impression definition and not all sites accept sequential liability. As a result, readers like Jim Warwick of the IPA wrote, “We have seen up to 40% discrepancy on most major sites between the number of ads that are called and the ads that are delivered.” There are still massive discrepancy problems with no clear method for resolution. Lynn Bolger wrote that “we need Donovan linked with planning/ad-serving systems immediately!” and summed up the desires on many.

I did learn that the AAAA did adopt sequential liability some time ago but it is unfortunately still not accepted by all. Even where it is accepted, billings systems are not constructed to take it into account.

Lastly, while not everyone has endorsed the AAAA/IAB Interactive Ts & Cs V 2.0, there was a lot of support and interest for this concept.

Media Department Structure

Looking back, this was one of the popular topics of the year. I wrote two articles on this topic, first, “A New Planning Organization” for MediaDailyNews on 3/4/02 and later “The New Media Agency” for Media Magazine in May. The prospect of media and account planners working closely together turns out to be something that a number of companies are either experimenting with or implementing. It is nice to know that minds are thinking alike in the industry.

Buying and Planning

Pushed a few hot buttons on this one. (See “Digital Heroes, or Everybody’s an Online Buyer” from 4/22/02). Many, many responses, both on Spin and to me directly via email. Both Jason Heller and Tom Hespos came down heavy on the side of Interactive planning and buying being done by the same person who is an “expert” in the Interactive arena. I continue to disagree on this one, but that’s what Online Spin is all about. My belief continues to be my last post on this topic -- ”Relative to Jason's comment on planning and buying being done by the same person. There is no question that it is more efficient for the agency to do it this way, especially in DR, where planning is less of a factor. But when branding comes into play, the client goals must rule, not how efficiently an agency can operate. Planners and buyers have different mentalities. The planner should be the expert on the client. By having a dedicated buying group, we find that a smaller group can maintain site relations and become experts on the sites and the technologies.”

Clutter and Size

As I said above, one of the great things about writing is that you learn. In the case of “Clutter and Size Differential: Where are the Studies?” from 5/6/02, I had believed that good data did not exist. Turns out that both Dynamic Logic and avant|marketer have collected a significant amount of information on the effectiveness of different size ads and the effect of clutter. Good to know.

Optimizing R/F

The reach and frequency topic, one that I have been very involved in has taught me a lot. In the article “Optimizing R/F via Ad Serving” from 6/17/02, I talked about using ad serving frequency caps to delivery the R/F desired in a schedule. I wrote about frequency caps again in August to try to gather more information on the topic. Little did I know what I have now learned. THERE IS NO TECHNOLOGY IN PLACE THAT PERMITS A FREQUENCY CAP ACROSS AN ENTIRE CAMPAIGN. What, you say? I will write more about this early next year, but in all of my investigations, frequency capping is limited to a single creative or a single site/network. There are concepts in place but no execution that is global enough for an advertiser to deploy.

Thanks to all for a great year! I will summarize the second half of the year in my Spin article of 1/6/03. Have a GREAT Holiday.

David L. Smith is President and CEO of Mediasmith, Inc.

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