On Ad Networks: Pork Bellies, Diamonds, Or The New Direct Marketing?


imageimageOver the past few weeks, a debate over the use and growing prominence of ad networks and exchanges has been gathering. The recent shuttering of ESPN’s (NYSE: DIS) and the Washington Post’s (NYSE: WPO) respective ad nets, as well as the news that Forbes was starting another one, have given legs to a comment made at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual conference by Martha Living Stewart Omnimedia’s Wenda Harris Millard (pictured, above, left) warning that media companies were selling web inventory like


Jaan Janes

The display banner space is only the beginning. At SyndiGO, we believe that publisher-backed media networks are the future – they have the brand, content and the salesforce to sell premium inventory to premium advertisers.

Publishers will have an owned and operated ad business as well as a distributed business and they'll sell ads better than the broader ad networks – they'll be able to leverage their content and brand to "go beyond the banner" for marketers – delivering deep integration, promotions and other branded elements that create real engagement – and then can be promoted on these media networks to like-minded consumers.

Publishers can and will win at this game and there are plenty of great mid-tail sites looking to get real yield for their inventory.

Kevin Normandeau

All ad network are not created equal so discussions like these are helpful in the education process. Some network are selling non-premium opportunities. That is quite different from say a vertical networks that focus on select sites and strives to bring advertisers innovative premium programs with scale that would be difficult to execute with out the help of a network.

As Lynda Clarizio points out, in the end the network who will win are those who can drive the best results for advertisers and sponsors. I would add that winning network will also make efforts to educate and help the publisher in their network grow. This makes them loyal and gives the network builder more scale and even better solutions to offer to their advertisers.

Liza Hausman

Certainly media companies with quality content should be wary of selling their inventory like pork bellies, but with an excess of available inventory there is plenty sold which is appropriate for direct response marketers where nearly anything makes sense for the right price, but which may not be the smart choice for brand efforts.

Per the article's comment on social media, it comes down to attention, and successfully monetizing the enormous amount of time people are spending on pages they create or control is a major challenge facing the industry today.

New interactive advertising units, and more permission-based marketing models will likely become more standard for brands in this new world. At Gigya we've started down this path with a permission-based, pay for performance widget distribution network. It will be interesting to see how these models continue to evolve.

Tessa H. Rudd

I agree with Kaufman regarding remnant ad space. Direct response campaigns, and overall use of left-over, and often clearance priced, ad spaces, are not conducive to effective brand marketing strategies in the web. Especially when it comes to marketing in the rapidly expanding blog and social media platforms, which serve as fertile ground for effective brand marketing and behavioral targeting. In the end, it doesn't matter how far you can through a ball if it's going in the wrong direction.


I couldn't read this article. I started, but the blinking ads were awful. I had to stop. That is disappointing because the content looked useful. Please cut the ad content to a point where I can at least look at what I am reading without getting frustrated.

I am starting to question who is MySpace and who is the news site here. I understand it is a paid content site, but there is no reason you can't make it more palatable to the eye of the reader. This was one of the few times recently when I have had to stop reading something on account of the advertising being so abrasive.


Robert Kadar

In the health and Medical category, transparency is a requirement and therefore the traditional "ad network" is usually off the table for consideration. But a vertical ad sales representation firm can offer both reach to difficult to reach audience segments and full transparency.
Robert Kadar
Good Health Advertising

R.J. Lewis

I applaud the distinction between broad national networks/exchanges and VERTICAL highly focused networks, but feel those differences need to be even more prominently illustrated.

A vertical network is also a category expert, deep diving into a specific niche. That expertise and an intense focus on a highly specific audience segment in essence forces the communication of value in the sales process. It's the only way we know how to sell – value-driven advertising commanding a CPM pricing methodology.

The industry at large has brought this problem on itself by agreeing to sell against price only (without the value distinction) and any metric we can measure… CPC, CP-Anything…. which dilutes the entire qualitative aspect of an audience segment.

I find if funny that the latest trend is now all about "engagement" and moving beyond the click. I recently read a piece that basically said, "we've been measuring (and paying on) the last click all this time, and we probably have it wrong…". Vertical Networks and sellers who communicate the value of an audience, and sell on a CPM basis, haven't had it wrong at all… but if I were a long time publisher partner of a larger national network (if long-term partners exist), I would be very upset to read a such a comment…. how much value did they deliver (that they were not paid on?).

Where's the class action lawsuits against networks who took real audience value from a publisher and turned it into a commodity? How does a change in a networks algorithm (to improve performance for advertisers by lowering misleading and possibly inappropriate clicks) result such a reduced change in total click volume? Where the class action suit by advertisers asking, "what have you been billing me for all along"? Ooops. The industry has brought this upon itself — it's allowed for online advertising (perhaps the greatest innovation in advertising history) to be commoditized within a little more than a decade.

Kudos Wenda Harris Millard — Keep fighting the good fight

Media Exec

I couldn't even read this article because they were so many blinking advertisements and distractions on the page. Nice one, pC.

Kelly Jenkins

The leader in CPA television advertising should be mentioned here. REVShare allows for the remnant inventory to be monetized using tested, proven, national advertisers in lieu of a firesale or the inventory going unsold. Why give it away when a network can make upwards of $15,000 a WEEK running our spots…with unparalleled weekly reporting, a personal sales rep who has a vested interest in the success of the network, and the experience of 20 years in the industry working with over 1500 media properties throughout the United States!?
Remnant inventory is a goldmine for networks, if they choose to think outside the box.

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