Woe The Digital Sale: What Happens To ROS?

Question from a buyer: With viewable impression standards coming as a soon-to-be reality, why would premium sites even have “run of site,” as the ROS impressions go into the exchanges for real-time bidding anyway?

Jason says: I question the premise of the question, though it seems we are at the frothy stage of this issue. One major inquiry is regarding the viewable impression: not whether it should be important, but whether it should be the currency of buying. Two intelligent gentlemen had a thorough discussion on it this week, so we don’t need to rehash that. We also discussed it here six months ago.

The second element of the trend has to do with RTB and how all websites deal with that aspect of programmatic buying.



Publishers, here is some advice on how not to act like the National Hockey League and lose your customers:

1) Don’t put anything with tangible value in an exchange in the hands of a professional salesperson.

2) Define ROS for your offer as something of value other than what will go into an exchange (if you use your own private exchange or an external one).

3) Keep your ideas and unique selling value (e.g., sponsorships, tie–ins, research, exclusives, etc.) at the forefront of your sales team's offers to advertisers.

It’s very important that publishers have very distinct buckets of inventory that advertisers will unequivocally understand when it comes time to sell. Know your value proposition -- or you’ll be drinking Heinekens next to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, wondering where all of your customers went.

Amy says: Clearly this buyer does not see the value of ROS anymore.  It almost seems like an archaic version of audience buying.  “That’s ROS” is what we said in the Ice Age of digital advertising, which was about five years ago. 

But what about those extra impressions?  Most premium publishers claim that they don’t release any inventory to DSPs.  Some have their own ad networks that aggregate impressions across various content sites.  I’m not sure how much value exists in that type of inventory.  It just seems like a mishmash without a strategic reason for being.  Adding data targeting to the mix brings the impressions into the consideration set, but I’m not sure there’s a price advantage with a premium publisher. 

With viewable impressions and real-time-bidding converging, it may create a perfect storm to reset the display advertising economy.  The excess inventory that runs through DSPs and RTB platforms is what needs to go away for viewable impression to prosper.  That new scarcity in premium content may increase CPMs and make up for the revenue lost due to the removal of non-viewable impressions.  And with fewer impressions going into the DSPs, there will be reduced abundance and potential CPM increases. 

Ideas and innovation are what publishers need to focus on.  It takes a lot to get noticed, and what buyers are looking for “exclusives” and “never been done before” deals. Smartphone and tablet advertising challenges are going to quickly replace our desktop display issues, whether we solve them or not.  The improvements we make now will ensure that websites will continue to be a mass platform -- and that the direct sales channel remain the best way to buy media.

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