The Secret Sauce

The United Kingdom has been at the cutting edge of digital advertising for a number of years, a harbinger of technology adoption and industry growth trends across the rest of Europe and the world. This has benefits and challenges. Robust adoption rates and forward-thinking customers means greater revenue opportunities, but they also force networks and vendors to be that much more agile and adaptive in order to prosper.

This is especially important now, when the ground is shifting for the display industry. Savvy media planners are moving to audience-based rather than inventory-based buys. At the same time, the introduction of ad exchanges means audience reach is no longer the clear differentiator that it once was (everybody can have global reach now!), and technology vendors offer outsourced, ASP-based network management systems, allowing for more streamlined, cost-efficient operations.

Not everything has changed, though. Quality inventory still wins, even in audience-based buys. Advertisers want a specific audience — via either demographics, interest-based categories or users who have performed a previous conversion on their site — but they want them in a specific context and in a positive, brand-safe environment. The work that all sales houses and ad networks have put into the quality of their publisher base will continue to be key to success; audience-based buying doesn’t change that.
And each network has its secret sauce. The optimization, data and smart people that have led to success will continue to be the key differentiator in the marketplace for every ad network in this brave new world.

What does all this mean for networks and sales houses in 2010, and what should our industry be focused on for success?

  1. Industry organizations have begun the work of creating standards around back office processes like discrepancy reconciliation and automated RFP & Invoicing processes, and technology vendors are starting to leverage these open standards to provide you the ad network with solutions that automate and lower the cost of doing business with your advertisers. Automation of these processes is a major gap between digital and traditional media. Work with your vendors to implement these new automated processes as they come out in the coming year; in the long run it will save you time and money, keep your focus on what you do best, and bring more ad dollars online.
  2. Leverage a third party vendor for your network management tools and focus on what you do best. This allows you to automate management of partners, inventory configuration, billing and reconciliation, and takes care of the financial reporting and partner payments. The more integrated this is with your core ad serving solution, the better. It’s also likely to lower the number of nervous breakdowns among your adops team as they sort all these issues out.
  3. Extend your reach over your target audience to 100% by leveraging an exchange. This additional breadth of inventory & users allows you to provide your advertisers with total reach over a given vertical, geo-location, or set of users who have previously expressed interest in the advertiser’s products. And when working with an exchange as a buyer, insist on the highest level of control over quality and type of inventory allowed.
  4. Focus on what you do best. Focus on the secret sauce. The unique data set, optimization algorithms and high-quality people that allow you to provide the best possible ROI to your advertisers.

That is what 2010 is all about. Clearing away the operational roadblocks, extending your network to total audience reach, maintaining and expanding your own premium publisher inventory and focusing in with laser precision on the business of maximizing return for your advertisers. Best not get caught playing catch up in 2011. If attendees of the AdMonsters EU Network Forum have any questions on our take on the industry, please feel free to reach out to our onsite representatives Nicole Pruess and David McMurtrie at the conference.



Sean Harvey is a DoubleClick veteran who serves as Business Product Manager for display ad serving, display advertising on the Google Content Network and ad environment & security issues. Sean is active with industry trade organizations both in North America and Europe, as both a speaker and as a participant in substantive committees on online measurement, metrics, ad operations and security.