With 700 million users reading 8 billion Web pages on more than 50 million Web sites, targeting specific customer segments with any degree of success can be daunting. However, the advantage of these figures is that they also represent a myriad of opportunities beyond the top 50 sites, portals, and search engines to reach users. This isn't just about reaching niche audiences, which Google can do through their contextual text links; it's about being able to provide integrated media opportunities that create a connection between the user and the product. The opportunity resides in the ability of the site, as a trusted communication medium, to "approve" or "permit" the user to accept the product or brand as part of their lifestyle. This is brand alignment--or brand association.
The same "edgy" sites that draw the most loyal users, especially among young adults, are generally not top-of-mind for the typical advertiser or agency. Nevertheless, they can present compelling value and help build brands with audiences. Such sites can attract upwards of 5 million unique visitors a month with original content designed specifically for a targeted demographic.
No doubt, there are significant challenges associated with online. In the late 1990s, these challenges helped fuel the growth of ad networks, a phenomenon replicated and exceeded more recently with the surge in performance buying, giving seed to performance networks with thousands of sites.
When buyers are interested only in performance metrics, they may not care so much about where their leads are derived online. But buyers interested in branding want to know that the sites they align themselves with online are "relevant" or "on point" with the brand they are marketing. This is one reason why representation firms have been thriving alongside these performance networks. Buyers who are able to benefit from the efficiency and ease of a network with the targeting and brand relationships of a rep firm enjoy the best of both worlds.
Rather than test and learn with individual Web sites, these firms enable advertisers to initiate a campaign across multiple sites producing invaluable data on the best demographic and psychographic matches for the product advertised. This approach enables buyers to enjoy the benefits of buying from a branded Web property such as MaryKateandAshley.com or RogerEbert.com--but with a lot more flexibility.
In the last year, there has been a huge increase in the number of larger, more branded Web properties searching for representation. The most flexible media firms can provide equally deep reach with even better targeting than an individual buy from any major branded site. The more focused the sites within a portfolio, the more passionate and loyal the audience a site will attract. The best media firms present opportunities for advertisers to deliver their message to the right people in the right mindset--sometimes on sites they may not have ever visited themselves.
Although the importance of having branded Web destinations in a digital media campaign cannot be understated, a potentially higher-performing approach is to blend buys on high-traffic destinations with buys on vertical enthusiast sites. Such a campaign would allow an advertiser to focus on more deeply influencing users on very targeted Web properties with integrated opportunities--and then conversely, deliver unique reach across the general target demographic through other relevant sites.
Working with advertising networks shouldn't mean that a buyer forgoes the opportunity to develop a direct working relationship with an individual publisher. The benefits of a network with individual site representation mean opportunities for developing deeper relationships with individual sites. During the course of a campaign, it may come to light that certain properties provide substantially better results than the average return. Thus, a campaign that is focused on reaching specific demographics through a portfolio of contextually relevant sites can be finely tuned to concentrate on the areas of greatest performance and ROI.