Why Inventory Agility Is Key To Publisher Profits

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, March 29, 2016

For the past decade or more, online publishers have primarily relied on fixed advertising real estate to drive revenue. Additionally, as scale, automation and growth in the sheer number of ads have evolved, things are not working out as planned.

The value of these fixed placements has gone down with ad blindness, ad blocking and other factors, making this just a grueling race to the bottom.

The general response to these trends has only served to make things worse. On the one hand, publishers, advertisers and ad networks have deployed ever-more annoying and invasive creative, trying to counteract consumer tendency to ignore the ads. On the other, they are using sophisticated technology to try and make the ads more relevant to consumers – and therefore more valuable to them.

This translates into longer load times as Web pages have to carry more tracking code.  It also consumes expensive mobile data, increases page clutter and disrupting a viewer’s experience, along with steadily decreasing audience engagement.



Many publishers focused on achieving 100% fill rates for their dedicated ad space doesn’t help either.

Many in our industry would agree that fixed ad placements contribute to an irrelevant and cluttered patchwork quilt that only serves to detract from viewers’ experience. More ads hasn’t fixed the problem, so what options do publishers have?

One has been to deploy native advertising, which embeds ads that resemble publisher content, offering increased relevancy by their very nature. Another benefit of native ads is that they can command a more premium price. But a key challenge with native advertising is scale. 

Another, more recent option, is high impact breakthrough video ads. These outstream ads do not require pre-existing dedicated ad space. Therefore, the big advantage is that publishers do not have to design content around ad space or obfuscate the integrity of their content in the eyes of the user.  With outstream, publishers can design primarily for audience experience and aesthetics.

In this rare instance, less starts to become much more.

Since breakthrough video ads can be placed anywhere during a user’s visit, and every aspect from audio to viewability can be customized to accommodate the level of impact desired, pricing based on page placement just became outdated. 

The high impact formats provide increased value to brands, which turns into higher CPMs for publishers, requiring less ads overall, which undoubtedly better suits the consumer.  

Ultimately, premium publishers and brands can align both editorial content with brand creative for the highest impact and the least audience disruption. Earlier this year, Turner Broadcasting announced an in-house capability for creating more creative for advertisers to increase relevancy and engagement for their audiences.

The express purpose is to reduce their ad loads and get more out of less. Viewers spend more time on a page as well as more time with ads.

Some best practices and next steps that publishers and brands can employ to better monetize inventory include:

  • ‘Managing complexity’ vs. ‘more complexity to manage’. Streamlining and managing the increased complexity of today’s online advertising ecosystem vs. fixed placement ads and all the variables that a high impact breakthrough ad delivers will require new tools.
  • Choosing options one by one is time consuming, inefficient and prone to errors. Publishers need to identify the SSP solution that gives you the right set of tools to manage all the complexity that online advertising requires, rather than just demand management.
  • A robust CMS as the new ad server. Organizing and planning creative brand content that is aligned with editorial content and that can be targeted to audiences in real time will be a game changing platform. Much like the print editorial calendar, a robust CMS platform can help to increase engagement from an editorial calendar planning tool as it serves to help brands have relevant creative that viewers want to watch (not block). It adds meaning and value to the editorial content they’ve come to the page for in the first place.
  • Test, test, test. Try five different experiences on your site - e.g in-article/outstream, interstitial, slider, bottom of article and see which mix works best for you to secure highest amount for that ad experience.
The goal is for publishers to reimagine how your readers interact with your site so that you can begin to better price experiences over simply pricing real estate. The market needs to make this evolution and become more agile in how it addresses both the user experience and monetization simultaneously.
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