It was an epic train wreck, of course -- one that still haunts the actor today.
At just about that same time period, executives at premium publishers were sitting around conference room tables reviewing site traffic numbers, and were likely surprised at the steady rise in the number of site visits driven my mobile devices. They must have thought at the time, “This could be great, or this could be really really bad.”
The evolution of mobile has been an epic train wreck for non-social media publishers, but unlike Franco’s performance, this can be fixed. First let’s dissect the problem:
When you read USAToday.com on your Samsung Galaxy, is the reporting any less accurate than if you read it on your laptop? If you check this coming weekend’s temperatures on Weather.com from your iPhone, are they any different than if you checked on your PC at work? When you update your Facebook status or tweet from your phone, is the experience any different from what you have using your MacBook Air?
Consumers don’t assign lesser value to a site visit from a mobile device, so why are the ads less valuable? Because buyers say so.
Buyers point to smaller screen sizes, less targeting capabilities, and lower time spent per visit as some reasons the value is lower. While these points are all true, what’s also true is that clients need to be where consumers are, and consumers are on their phones.
Buying and selling media is a tug of war with words, and buyers say shit to get lower prices. It’s their job. The words “your site is not working” will be in enshrined in the media buying hall of fame. These words buyers use, along with a supply-demand imbalance, have knocked the snot out of premium prices.
The solution is to fight back and raise CPMs, and make these prices universal across any screen. The key is to create a rate card with “equivalent” ad units, so for example, a 728x90 is an $18 CPM on desktops, and the “equivalent” unit on mobile is a 300x50 that costs $18 bucks, too.
I am pretty sure Facebook and Twitter are pricing their mobile and desktop ad offerings at the same rate, so this solution may appear obvious to some. But why this is the right time for premium pubishers to raise CPMs may not be so obvious.
A digital media plan includes a list of direct buys on sites the client feels good about running on, and the rest is spent with networks and/or exchanges. Buyers present the plan to their clients at an eCPM of “X” and makes subsequent quantifiable promises.
93% of programmatic spending is RTB on open exchanges. That’s because this is the cheapest. As more spending takes place on that end of the plan, the eCPM of digital media plans will drop considerably. For example, a plan last quarter that came in at an eCPM of $6 bucks shifts a higher percentage of dollars into the open exchanges the next quarter, and the eCPM could drop to $4 bucks. Here is the opportunity: a plan can absorb the increase in CPM’s from the lower percentage of overall spending with premium publishers, and a buyer can still come in flat or even under last quarter’s eCPM.
I get that talking about raising prices in a column about selling media is much easier than doing so with a 2015 quota staring back at you. The risk is less revenue initially, and more unsold inventory, but the current strategy of increasing sell-through at the expense of premium CPMs is not working. Premium publishers would be better off selling ads to fewer clients who are willing to pay more, and then using unsold inventory as promotional impressions for the native programs that come with these advertisers' buys.
Media plans are balanced between math and emotion, and clients will pay higher CPMs to feel better about running on the sites that matter most to them. The trick for premium publishers is to figure out which advertisers see their site in that way, and then have the guts to play the CPM chicken game with their buyers.