Commentary

Balancing Dueling Goals: Quality And Scale

If online advertising has one perception issue, it’s that many brands still believe they can’t get value out of display. When brands and agencies meet with media and technology companies, their biggest upfront demand is the assurance that they’re getting both quality and scale for their display buys.
 
But marketers can’t simply buy quality inventory at a low CPM and expect the moon. They need to first understand the evolving concept of “quality” and define what they’re looking for in their campaign before they worry about delivering ads at scale.
 
Let’s start with that term “quality.” When someone mentions the word “transparency” in online advertising, everyone in the room understands. Quality is a little more difficult to pin down. When an advertiser says they want quality inventory, it becomes subjective and elusive. Is the word “quality” referring to the audience, the context, or something else?
 
Quality Defined
Today, quality shouldn’t be about context. The dirty secret in the early days of ad targeting was that the technology couldn’t prevent ads from running on poor quality sites. That’s a moot point, as every company can now prevent ads from running on objectionable sites. However, the industry has entered the second phase of defining “quality” from a display ad perspective, and we need to look at what comes after context as a concern.
 
Once you move beyond qualms about content, quality is more about measures that truly matter, including where on the page the ad appears and how well it can be viewed. User-generated content is quality content, as long as the consumer can see the ad and the page is not objectionable. The same goes for gossip content. Quality inventory is a clean, well-lit place, but more importantly, it’s an ad that’s above the fold and targeted to the right audience.
 
Targeting is the other crucial component when defining “quality” for display. It’s relatively easy to spray ads everywhere and deliver tonnage at a low CPM, but that strategy rarely drives conversions. Plenty of companies in this space don’t report on visibility; they simply drop cookies on the page and report inflated figures back to the agency. If conversions are the end goal -– and they should be for a DR campaign -- it’s best for marketers to avoid this spray and pray strategy altogether.
 
Adding Scale to Your Wish List
Now we move on to the complications surrounding scale. Advertisers are always looking for both, but there’s a constant wrestling match with targeting quality at scale. Think of a fulcrum, with scale on one side and highly valued targeted users on the other. Display follows the same rules of physics, where if you try to push one way or the other, either into more scale or into more granular audience, you risk throwing off the balance. Scale can often come at the expense of quality, because there’s only a finite amount of “quality” available, even online.
 
We know from internal data analysis that quality inventory, as defined above, matched with the right audience leads to the best performance. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate; both good by themselves, and even better together. But quality has a price.

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Therefore, running an audience targeting campaign with a high volume of impressions at a cheap price may seem like a deal, but it involves a sacrifice. The seesaw is likely getting pushed in the wrong direction. Marketers, dig deep into your numbers. Are you targeting effectively? Is the inventory you are buying the right kind of “quality?”

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