Shenan Reed is founder and chief media officer of CREATETHE Group’s Morpheus Media, a full-service interactive agency that works with many luxury clients. I thought her perspective on a rich-media ad marketplace would be valuable.
In addition to display, Morpheus does a lot of work with PPC, so I began our conversation by asking Shenan her opinion on RTB, knowing that she works with both brand and direct-response campaigns. “The value that RTB, ad networks and ad exchanges bring is the access to consumer-level data,” she responded. “For example, a brand can create and deliver a creative and unique experience based on the consumers' interests or behaviors. The ad networks give advertisers the ability to serve the ad to only the consumers that they know will find it valuable paying rates that are purely based on the demand for the inventory making the buy extremely efficient.”
Those amazing brand experiences are best delivered in rich media, of course, and Morpheus has been delivering some amazing brand experiences for its clients. Shenan noted: “Most already possess stunning creative, whether it’s from print campaigns or their store windows or other sources. Now, in addition to the stunning images they’ve created, they are also creating stunning behind-the-scenes looks or video executions -- other stories we can put to work on their behalf.”
Incorporating all this creative and social content into rich-media units is exciting to Shenan because agencies like Morpheus have the ability to create an entire experience within a single ad unit. Interacting with that ad doesn’t force consumers to leave the site where they have chosen to consume content. “They can experience everything they need to experience of the brand in this rich media unit. We’ve delivered a contained experience,” she noted.
The challenge of this type of ad unit is that it’s expensive. So how can agencies like Morpheus justify creating those units, which are costly to create and also more expensive to serve than standard banners, knowing that advertisers are not going to get the click-through rates they’ve come to expect from online campaigns? “They will get engagement rates, which we’re desperately trying to train them to appreciate and understand and value more than they’ll ever value the click-through rate,” said Shenan.
The value in a premium exchange for a company like Morpheus, is that they will no longer have to pick and choose four or five sites on which they can run these premium ads. Shenan agreed: “We can choose to run across a premium ad marketplace, choose a bidding price, see how it performs and then allow it to optimize to the sites that are getting the best engagement or click rate -- whatever it is we’re measuring for success.”
Since the IAB Rising Stars are standard rich media units, and therefore a logical foundation for a premium exchange, I asked Shenan how her clients were responding to these ad units. “Our clients aren’t asking for the Rising Star units,” she told me. “They don’t know what they are, but we do as an agency.” She cited the recent Undertone study about awareness of the Rising Stars, commenting that “if less than a third of brand marketers in the online advertising industry don’t know what these units are, it just means we’ve continued to force ourselves into mediocrity.”
“The sad fact is, if we look at the largest share of media, it is programmatic buying for high reach, low CPM,” she continued. She finds that brands are often looking to hit television-like GRP targets with their display media, expecting to pay ridiculously low CPMs, or even CPCs. While Reed believes there are more creative ways that brands can drive results, this kind of buying seems to have become the norm for mass brands. “They know it works, and they’re afraid that if they shut that down that low-cost, high-volume buying and begin paying twice the CPM to go to a larger ad unit or something that’s a little more engaging or a little sexier, that performance will suffer,” she remarked. From there, the fears escalate: Quarterly goals won’t be met, senior-level marketing professionals will be fired. With the average tenure of a CMO less than 18 months anyway, those fears don’t seem so unreasonable.
Our conversation ended with her final thoughts on the Rising Stars. “Helping build industry awareness and move the industry forward by doing away with banner blindness through use of the Rising Star units -- that makes me feel like I’m doing something right.”