In the online video advertising industry, the term "premium inventory" typically means guaranteed inventory on premium brand-name sites such as ESPN, Hulu, and The New York Times, or even niche-content-oriented sites like WebMD. In fact, with so much emphasis on advertising on these sites, all other inventory has been lumped into an unflattering group of "remnant," "mid- to long tail," or the sometimes slightly more appealing "non-guaranteed." Kind of like in high school when you were either in the cool group -- or you weren't. What that black-and-white classification does is overlook all of the other great inventory for your brand (or all the smart and talented kids who weren't football players or cheerleaders).
Now that we're all grown up, it's time to reconsider what we think of as premium inventory.
Defining the Problem
Before behavioral targeting and campaign optimization, premium inventory on brand-name sites was the premier way for brands to reach consumers with online video ads. Running an ad on a premium site is great -- but using only this strategy has some drawbacks, including:
· Wasted impressions when the premium site can't target desired audience segments.
· Expensive CPMs due to scarcity of available inventory on the premium site.
· Limited ability to reach the entire universe of potential target customers.
· Decreased ability to optimize campaigns effectively in real time.
While these sites are great additions to any video ad campaign, isn't the purpose of a campaign to reach as many people in your target audience as possible in a cost-efficient manner, and have those people engage with the brand by watching the video and reacting in some way to the ad? If this is the goal, then shouldn't any appropriate site that reaches an advertiser's target audience with high-quality pre-roll placements and strong campaign performance be considered premium inventory as well?
Redefining Premium Inventory
If a travel brand wanted to engage with consumers who were interested in a trip to Hawaii, it can certainly run a video ad on a site like LonelyPlanet. However, since LonelyPlanet is a premium brand site, the inventory itself is going to be expensive and might not generate enough reach to meet the advertiser's needs. To complement the direct buy with the premium site, advertisers should also deploy a strategy that combines third- and first-party data (in this case, travel-related intent data) with mid- to long-tail sites that have high-quality, user-initiated placements that deliver high click-through rates, superior engagement and increased brand lift with target audiences.
What Does This Mean for Advertisers?
This new definition of premium inventory -- any inventory that reaches a campaign's target audience and delivers on performance metrics -- may change how advertisers approach their video ad buys. There's no need to ignore premium sites, but now advertisers can focus on reaching more of their audience for less money, while creating brand lift across premium inventory on mid- and long-tail sites.
But some brands may be uncomfortable with opening their campaign to lesser-known or more niche sites. To address that concern, advertisers should make sure that sites are audited by third-party services like Peer39 and AdXpose to ensure that the associated content is clean and can be considered safe for the brand. Additionally, advertisers should work with a multitude of third-party data providers to ensure they reach the maximum number of users in their desired audience segment. Finally, advertisers should work within a top video ad marketplace that can guarantee delivery/performance and ensure that inventory from mid- to long-tail sites is always high-quality, user-initiated and above the fold.
If you are still skeptical about the new premium inventory, try it out. Consider allocating equal levels of working media to traditional premium brand sites and mid- and long-tail sites that meet your target campaign demographics. At the conclusion of the campaign, you should compare:
· The media buys, using a performance built metric such as completed views, and
· Media waste across the plan using content as audience proxy versus data.
I'm entirely confident that advertisers will see the benefits of including smaller sites as premium inventory. Their campaigns will have greater reach, be more cost-effective, be more targeted and optimized, and there will be less category overlap.
Isn't it time we redefined premium inventory to include any inventory that reaches our audience and meets our campaign goals? After all, it's usually the kids who weren't in the in crowd who turn out to be the most successful.