Do ad networks help monetize remnant inventory or hurt a media company's ability to charge premium CPMs? There are cases to be made on both sides, but the question remains how can a publisher take advantage of this trend in ad spending? One way to attack the issue is to start your own ad network and charge the rates that are appropriate. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Luckily, there is a no-cost process to evaluate the potential for a vertical ad network in your space. Let's get started!
Market potential for a vertical ad network
Begin by evaluating prospects for your ad network. You don't want to target key accounts for this initiative unless they are spending WAY more money elsewhere. Instead, focus on advertisers who run larger campaigns where your properties' individual reach is too small to get on the radar for the RFP. Put together a list of prospects that you could go after, the agencies they work with
, and poll your team to identify the contacts that you have within those agencies. If you have 30 or more prospects overall, there is enough market potential to proceed.
Use Quantcast to measure audience reach, demos, behavior
on your sites' design templates (five minutes per site). However, I urge you to sit down and develop a plan before you start. Remember that ad networks aggregate sites for reach leading to lower CPM
's but then use behavioral targeting to ratchet pricing back up. So, you'll want to think about how you can segment your audience.
For example, look at the CBS Networks Quantcast profile. You'll see that they do break out their traffic by site
, but they also break out traffic by segment
. They even have created custom segments for sponsorships. That's a great way to provide additional value to top tier advertisers. Another example is Gawker Media Network, who has created two major segments GawkerGeek and GawkerChic
In both cases, you can see how measuring audience across sites can add scale and targeted advertising interest. The key is to set up your segments to fit your prospects' marketing needs. Remember that you don't have to roll up sites into segments, you can roll up several sections of sites into a segment. If you are a B2B
publisher with 10 sites, you can create a small business audience segment which targets the small business section of those 10 sites. For a newspaper company, it could be all of your real estate traffic which would then be marketed to lending institutions. For consumer sites, the options are endless.
Ensure sufficient scale
There are two ways to go about this analysis, anecdotal evidence or quantifiable evidence. Publishers can poll the agencies that they currently work with and ask them if your Quantcast numbers are large enough to get on the radar for some of these larger buys, or you could use Quantcast's media planner to see if you come up in the results for segments that you are targeting.
If you are still lacking the necessary reach, use Quantcast's "Audience Also Visits" data to target potential partners and approach them about joining your ad network. Sell them on your ability to sell their inventory at higher CPM's than traditional ad networks. You might also identify ad networks that you could partner with. If you can sell their inventory at a higher net CPM (the CPM they get based on revenue share), they will take your money.
Implement behavioral technologies
Companies like DoubleClick
offer the technologies necessary to build, target, and measure results in a similar fashion to the big ad networks. If you are going to run with the big dogs, you want to be able to provide the same type of targeting capabilities that agencies have come to expect from them.
Market your network
While Quantcast has a service for media planners, most agencies use Nielsen
to search for, identify, and select media partners. In order to get on the RFP's for these major buys, you are going to need to have some presence there. This can run as high as $60k, but that investment can be made back in just one buy. Talk to the agencies that you anticipate working with, and ask them about their RFP process, what services they use to select RFP participants, and how to ensure that you are on their radar.
Servicing your clients
The best way to ensure success is to provide the best campaign optimization around. Monitor your ad network campaigns constantly and recommend adjustments before the agency even knows there is a problem. If you make the agency's job easier, they'll prefer you over the big players because your campaigns will perform better with less work. The difference between $500k in revenue and $5 million in revenue lies here because your reputation for delivering quality performance with less effort will create a relationship that leads to more business. I've seen campaigns grow from $30k to $150k in a quarter because of proactive campaign optimization.
All of the above require planning, effort, and time. So, developing an ad network isn't a silver bullet, but based on the projected growth of this segment of the online advertising market, it's an investment worth making.