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Native and Mobile Ads Draw High CPMs

The advertising landscape continues to shift. This time the news appears to be good for the publishers. MediaRadar’s newest study on advertising trends in 2016 and Q1 2017, which came out at the beginning of the summer, revealed that high CPM ad placements are on the rise (whew!), especially if they’re mobile or native; niche and enthusiast sites still flourish in print (along with regional titles,) and native ad placements have grown 74% in Q1 year over year.

Native ad formats have grown the most and command the highest CPMs. While many forms of native advertising are still frowned on,  the demand for native has nearly tripled since 2015. That’s partly because native ad formats typically escape ad blockers, but also because consumers don’t mind reading or viewing something that’s truly informational and isn’t interruptive. Native ads are predominantly  brand ads, and the further good news is that digital advertising has finally arrived at a point where it’s not all remnant inventory, performance ads, and low CPMs. This will allow digital advertising to be effective at points nearer the top of the funnel.(If there is still a funnel at all). For now, native seems to outperform more traditional ad units.

As for print advertising, it still hasn’t gone away, although spend did decline 8% year over year. While general interest titles are languishing, niche and regional publications appear to be on the rise. And many advertisers have begun to target smaller volumes of engaged users over sheer reach.

This seems counterintuitive to us, but we’ve observed it ourselves: programmatic buying has declined. In fact it’s down 12%, and we think it’s because media planners are tired of not knowing where their ads are going to be seen. Brand safety is one of the problems, and the other is viewability.  Viewability is the new currency for advertisers and it’s tough to track viewability accurately with programmatic buying. Brands really need to buy programmatically, however, because it’s far less effortful, especially for large buys. We think the market will settle somewhere around programmatic direct, which allows far more control than simple programmatic.

If the current market trends continue, publishers should see increases in revenues, brands should see growing effectiveness of ad spend, and consumers should be less annoyed by formats that offer little else than interruption.

 

 

 

 

 

Publishers Survive Multiple Challenges

We’re always looking at ways publishers have found to monetize their content in this brave new world. This week, with summer already under way and advertising models still under scrutiny, we’ve looked at a number of different “solutions,” none of which could be called a category killer.

For example, Medium founder Ev Williams, who also co-founded Twitter and Blogger, has been funding the company on investor money (his own and that of friends), but had begun an effort to sell ads when he abruptly pivoted and began to sell “memberships.”

The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them. His goal is to break this pattern. “If I learn that every time I drive down this road I’m going to see more and more car crashes,” he says, “I’m going to take a different road.”

Williams decided that the different road for Medium would be premium content for people who pay $5.00 per month. This effort has been characterized as “underwhelming” in a recent NY Times article.

Jessica Lessin, the former Wall Street Journal reporter who founded The Information, borrowed her business model from the Wall Street Journal and went even further: Lessin sells subscriptions and allows no advertising. While she has grown rather nicely,  her model involves a high enough annual subscription price that she cannot scale. Also, she’s in a vertical that people will pay for: financial information.

The only scalable new media models for big brand buyers who want scale seem to be Buzzfeed and Vox, two very different publishers. Vox does aim to compete with Google and Facebook, with a slightly different philosophy: It has 8 different vertical sites, including SBNation, Vox.com, The Verge, Recode.net, and Eater. The company is trying to build big audiences in all of those big verticals, and remains committed to distributed platforms.  To accomplish this, Vox relies on advertising, but the conversation about advertising always starts with content supplemented by native ads or branded content, rather than the “ads first, news hole with what’s left” methods of the past.

Vox is shifting to programmatic, which it views as a means to an end, a mechanism through which brands can execute at scale — not just as a remnant, low CPM business. Although many VC-backed media companies, including Buzzfeed, don’t do programmatic (yet), Vox simply views the automation platform as a way brands can buy what they want.

“Our media becomes no less valuable because it’s sold programmatically, ” says Vox VP for Revenue Operations Ryan Pauley. “In fact, it becomes more valuable; that’s how we’ve approached it.” To increase distribution for marketers, Pauley and his team created Concert, a partnership among NBCU, Conde Nast, and Vox, which leverages the ad tech Vox has created across a premium set of inventory. All three sales forces are then selling the same custom ad products. That’s how marketers can get to scale without driving the CPMs into the basement.

Advertising remains the only way to achieve scale for now, but tomorrow’s advertising industry is evolving to look very different from that of the past.

Germany’s BVDW Advocates for Transparency

In Europe, Germany is known as the country with the strictest privacy concerns. So it is no surprise that a Dusseldorf-based industry association has come up with a code of conduct for marketers, publishers, DSPs, SSPs, and data providers  that will bring some transparency to the programmatic market..

The Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) eV is a leading German advocacy group for companies  with digital business models, or who are part of the digital value chain. Anchored by member companies from various segments of the Internet industry,  it can provide a holistic view of the German digital economy and act as a spokesperson for the market. It’s a source of important information, facts and data for both those in the industry and those wishing to learn about it.

BVDW is committed to making the efficiency and benefits of digital services – content, services and technologies – transparent and thus promoting their use in the overall economy, society and administration.  Using the pillars of market development, market intelligence and market regulation, BVDW bundles leading digital know-how  to help shape a positive development of  what is now considered a leading growth sector in the German economy. However, as a central body of the digital economy, the organization also provides standards and binding guidelines for industry players for market transparency.

Over forty companies, including Adform, Appnexus, DataXu, Mediamath and Teads have signed the new agreement. Companies that are not members of the organization  can also sign, and signing companies are required to adhere to the code of conduct.

Companies that call themselves full stack providers will also be required to adhere to the standards, which stress transparency, safety and quality.

The aim of BVDW’s standards effort is to make programmatic more efficient and useful to German marketers and publishers by creating a controlled system. Germany is probably hoping to avoid the problems that surfaced  in the US, which deployed programmatic advertising without sufficient transparency, and caused many marketers problems, such as discovering their brands displayed in non brand-safe environments. Other issues like scanty metrics for determining ROI caused online advertising prices for programmatic to remain low years after they should have risen consistent with the number of consumers moving online.

We suspect that the focus group that created the code of conduct will have to continue studying the more complicated issues involved in programmatic, such as header bidding and programmatic TV:

The code of conduct is a first step to provide new impetus for the development of programmatic in Germany, says Julian Simons, deputy chairman of the BVDW’s focus group on programmatic advertising: “In a highly dynamic area such as programmatic, we cannot just establish rules within the market and then sit back. This continues to be a process of development, which will take current developments into account.”

One large looming problem is the absence of both Facebook and Google, said to control 75% of global ad spend, as signatories to the compact.

 

EMarketer Says Programmatic Has Won

The latest eMarketer roundup on the programmatic marketplace tells us that more than two thirds of all digital display advertising will be bought programmatically this year.

In 2016, US programmatic digital display ad spending will reach $22.10 billion. That’s a jump of 39.7% over last year, and represents 67.0% of total digital display ad spending in the US.

It’s hard to believe that programmatic, for all intents and purposes, is only about three years old. It took a while for marketers to figure out that it was a work flow solution and was safe to use. It was also a bit complex, but now everyone’s comfortable with it, and pleased with its efficiency. This year, programmatic will take over mobile, and next year will be the big year for programmatic mobile video.

Mobile is driving growth of programmatic ad spending. This year, mobile programmatic spending will reach $15.45 billion in the US, representing 69.0% of all programmatic digital display ad spending. Next year, mobile video programmatic spending will exceed its desktop counterpart for the first time.

With respect to programmatic video, 2016 will be a pivotal year. More than half of all digital video ad spending in the US will be programmatic. This year, programmatic video ad spending will reach $5.51 billion, representing 56.0% of total digital video ad spending. That figure represents in turn 24.9% of total programmatic digital display ad spending.

Next year will be the tipping point for programmatic mobile video ads, as mobile surpasses desktop for the first time. By 2017, programmatic mobile video ad spending will reach $3.89 billion, representing 51.0% of total programmatic ad spending in the US. By comparison, programmatic desktop based video ad spending will reach $3.73 billion, dropping to 49.0% of total programmatic digital display ad spending…

That being said, programmatic isn’t growing quite as quickly as it has in the past. We think that’s because, although media planners may recognize that programmatic is efficient, there’s a difference between efficient and effective. So far, there isn’t enough experience with mobile video ads, programmatic or direct, to prove how and where they’re as effective as other channels.

And the landscape is further complicated by header bidding, which has been gaining momentum and will be rolled out by Facebook’s ad network this month.

The Strengths and Limitations of Programmatic

There’s a tendency lately to overrate what the garden variety of  programmatic can do. Indeed, as more and more of the market moves to programmatic trading, we sometimes forget that the highest and best use of programmatic isn’t to attract new customers; it is still for retargeting. Retargeting works.

There are now several forms of retargeting that have evolved over the years.  The first to emerge was search retargeting, which served appropriate ads to consumers who searched on certain keywords. The problem with that? We didn’t get enough scale. Too few users searched for your product.

Similarly, demographic retargeting  has its limitations, as consumers already know. It is best used to retarget existing customers or visitors, and sometimes serves an ad for a product a customer has just purchased. The severest limitation of retargeting — just like search retargeting — is for the development of new customers. Here, a different kind of data is required, and that often comes from the publisher. For customer acquisition and brand building, targeting actual websites with high quality users visiting them is still the best solution. The best targeting for expanding your customer base is still site targeting.

Thus actual site targeting, with ads served while the consumer is on a relevant website or a relevant section of a website, will work best. It works better than data to find the type of users that would visit a relevant site. As an example, if you are interested in a traveller it makes more sense to advertise on the travel section of a newspaper site than to choose the traveller category in a DSP. The DSP is using data to guess that the user is interested in travel. However targeting the travel section of the site removes the guesswork – we know the user is reading about travel. And further the user’s mind is on travel right at the point that he sees the ad. So site targeting works better – though it costs more and is difficult to find.

And that is why with our ZINC platform for media buyers we offer transparent and highly accurate  targeting of websites and sections of websites.  That really works well. Many can’t get hold of this inventory so will say that a DSP’s travel category is better and cheaper- but it isn’t better, just cheaper. ZINC’s transparent list of travel sites and travel sections will work far better – though it costs more it is worth it.

Programmatic Spend Reveals Greater Planning

Programmatic advertising has outgrown its original reputation as a place to pick up cheap remnant inventory at the last minute. As brands and agencies try to meet consumers where they are, they are finding the need to look across the media landscape for the same customer on a number of different devices and on a variety of platforms.The consumer has become, quite literally, a moving target, and there is simply no other way to build scalable campaigns without the automation and reach programmatic can offer . Although the retail and CPG industries have been in the forefront of this movement, they’re followed closely by travel, telecom, and financial services — all fields in which competition is fierce.

As a concomitant, the RTB environment has grown to include much more than simple display advertising. You can buy pretty much any kind of advertising in real time now, even video. From January through April 2014, display advertising remained fairly constant, but all other data-driven marketing channels grew, according to Turn’s Advertising Intelligence Index. Across all the channels, the competitive advertisers are beginning to plan in advance and stabilize at higher levels of spend.

Turns study reported a decrease in the volatility of spend, as well as growth in the number of dollars spent. This information reveals that marketers are planning in advance for cross-platform campaigns, rather than operating through trial and error and merely reacting. Once marketers recognize that they have to  leverage data and approach planning with a new appreciation for cross-channel impact, smoother spend is a natural consequence.

Compared to the same period in 20o13, Turn saw far less budget allocated at the end of traditional marketing quarters this year—advertisers are planning programmatic strategies in advance and are preparing better for seasonal patterns and variations in the marketplace.

It’s about time marketers approached their media buys more strategically, and thought more about how to execute programmatic campaigns for maximum audience effect across channels. More marketers are entering every channel, in every industry, leading to stiffer competition for available inventory. They are getting smarter about harnessing data and targeting spending to find customers across the media landscape. The degree of volatility still varies across channels, but Turn says mobile, social, and video are all converging toward the stable, consistently high level of competition that we’ve seen in the display market for some time now.

If you’re not already running a cross-channel integrated marketing campaign, leveraging audience data and your own customer data, you’ve lost your advantage in the programmatic market.

Programmatic isn’t a Synonym for Low CPMs

Are small publishers having difficulty keeping their CPMs stable with programmatic? According to Brian Fitzgerald of Evolve Media they are:

The overall marketplace has been putting pressure on brands to move into indirect programmatic channels at lower CPMs. Smaller sites have really been feeling the pinch. There’s a shrinking pool of people viewing ad inventory on PCs. Audiences are moving to mobile and publishers have to deal with less real estate for ad space. It’s only going to get worse. Now we have more issues of non-human traffic and non-viewable inventory.

We believe this doesn’t have to be the case. Because Evolve Media is rolling up small publishers, offering  them economies of scale, it’s in their interest to think that CPMs will be lower with programmatic.  Actually, things are much more nuanced, and changing every day as ads become more mobile and video ads become more common. Yes, brands are moving into programmatic. Yes, customers are moving to mobile, and the screens are indeed smaller. But that doesn’t mean advances like mobile video ads and high impact formats don’t take up the slack left by the abandonment by consumers of their PCs.

For one thing, people outside the industry are still confusing programmatic with real time bidding (RTB). They’re not the same. RTB is an auction, while programmatic is simply an automated work flow process. So there’s no real reason why programmatic itself would lower CPMs, unless your only use of programmatic is assigning your remnant inventory to RTB exchanges.

Our publishers, on the other hand, receive opportunities to offer  ZEDO’s high impact formats, display and video ads that are polite, unobtrusive, and engaging — but at the same time 99% viewable with measureably  higher CTRs. Our ZINC division sells premium brands and agencies campaigns that run on a premium publisher network that is growing daily.

For another, what Evolve calls “economies of scale” is really the ability to present a brand to a single market segment at scale — in this case either men’s or women’s lifestyles, since that’s what all their aggregated sites present. So it’s  a matter of better targeting. And that can be done with combinations of large and small publishers.

More precise targeting always produces higher CPMs for a publisher, which is why niche magazines and sites are not suffering the way many general publishers are. Local publishers are also faring better under programmatic, because in many cases brands want to pinpoint customer locations on mobile.

A combination of good targeting and engaging high impact formats can help a publisher of any size command the CPMs it wants.

 

 

 

 

For Viewability and Brand Safety Advertisers Choose ZEDO Ad Server

In a market of incomplete information, you can claim anything. That’s how ads are called “viewable” when they really are not. As a buyer of ads, especially a buyer who is buying on a real-time bidding (RTB) platform,  you could be buying anything. In this scenario, the best case is that the ad isn’t seen. The worst case is that it is seen someplace you didn’t intend it to go.

This is going to be especially true on video pages, which are heavy traffic draws. If you as an advertiser are buying for reach, you are probably buying on numbers of impressions. But your ad is likely to go through four or five networks from the one on which you bought it to the site where it actually runs. And all of this is done in near-real time, by algorithms untouched by human hands.

Sure, there’s ad verifying software, and it helps a bit, but the ad verifiers often can’t see the ads either. They claim that they can see through iframes to the actual place an ad appears, but most browsers no longer allow that. Instead, those verifiers may generate dummy impressions, for which you have to pay. The more networks and exchanges that get between advertiser and publisher, the less it is possible with current browsers to “jump the frames” and tell where the ad is appearing.

Publishers are beginning to install code so their own inventory can be identified. Otherwise the advertiser has paid, but the publisher may not receive the revenue.

In a perfect world where a publisher sells directly to a trading desk, ads can be verified. How often does THAT happen nowadays? We’re trying to make that happen at ZEDO by assuring advertisers who buy ZINC formats to run on our ZEDO premium network that there will be no other middlemen, and that they will not be buying programmatically but buying direct. In the past few years, we’ve put a great deal of time and effort, as well as research and development, into developing a  network that can assure ad buyers reach, without sacrificing safety. In this way, our publishers also stand to combat the falling prices sometimes attributed to programmatic buying.