The Advertising Features We Take For Granted


DM CONFIDENTIAL – If you spend money with one of the major self-service platforms, you can easily take things for granted. As we thought more about Twitter and the challenges they face as they try to scale their ad platform, it provides us with a chance to look back at the features that anyone — advertiser, publisher or network — can easily take for granted. Whether Google, Facebook, Twitter, or, here are features and workflow figured out already by other ad pioneers.

Publisher Signup: Sounds like such a simple concept, offering a link to a form where someone who wants to display goes to express that intent. The form piece was easy, but knowing what information to ask and then where that information goes, i.e. who handles it, what the applicant receives, etc., was not something that could be outsourced or taken for granted in the very early 2000s.

IP Targeting: The accuracy has improved, but the basics of showing an ad to those within a certain region using the IP address was, even a decade ago, a standard feature. We wish we knew who to thank, but those that did received their own reward — a successful business upon which trillions of impressions rely, from ad targeting to matching a user completing a form with the data they are providing.

Admin Interface: The heart of any ad network rests with that business’ ability to analyze the activity across its network. It comes in three main flavors: 1) what traffic sources see, from reporting to their ability to pull new ads; 2) what advertisers have access to, again, from reporting to modifying campaign, and 3) arguably most importantly, the dashboard that pulls together the interplay between those two, the metrics the company uses to run its business. Even then, you could get all of these without having to build and simply licensing a robust network platform — not up to Google’s scale, but the robustness is nothing to scoff at.

Campaign/Creative Infrastructure: Once again, looking back, it wasn’t necessarily obvious to assume that an advertiser might have more than one campaign and that a campaign might have more than one creative. Google extended this logic even further, but the sense that you will have one master level with a certain number of sub-levels is built into any platform development today.

Sub-ID Tracking: A later development of the older technologies, sub-ID tracking is invaluable in the classic ad network and performance marketing worlds. An ad tended to have certain characteristics already associated with it, e.g. campaign ID and creative ID. There are a slew of other qualities not associated with the advertiser that could help the publisher.

Conversion Tracking: Not every network wants advertisers to know an effective cost per action, but that doesn’t mean the technology wasn’t widely available. Conversion tracking couldn’t happen without one of the most unlikely of web technologies, the cookie — nor could it exist without being able to place third-party cookies and update the information as applicable. Do Not Track advocates, note — cookies aren’t inherently bad.

Fraud: Ask any network owner, and they will tell you that knowing who to allow in the network is among the most difficult challenges. The same goes for traffic taking place on pages that generate revenue. No solution has yet to perfectly figure out the sign-up challenge (although some have come close for more consumer-facing platforms like Twitter), but in the past two years, immense progress has been made trying to help identify when traffic should count toward a revenue-generating event.

What are some of the features that have yet to be solved, where each company seems to recreate the wheel? A few of the CPA network guys have some of these, but having seen Facebook and now Twitter, it’s interesting to see how not-standard they are. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it shows that while we have come so far, there is a way to go.

Master Accounts: Twitter today has yet to solve this issue. What if you are a brand that has Sub-brand A and Su-brand B? You have to associate each account with a new and unique ad account.

Other User Login/Permissions: Twitter also has yet to find a way for a brand to give credentials to different users.

Quality Score: This is a big one, and it is only thanks to Google that every other platform needs to think this way. Be it a click or a follow, no two are identical, and it is key to figure out what the real value is and then charge accordingly. When there is a CPA goal associated it is easier, but the vast majority of ads do not have specific goals making the challenge quite complex.

Account Score: Another Google first, to roll up the activity of the entire account. If you are a good account, your ability to roll out new ads is much easier than if you are seen as risky.

Fraud: When building a new system, you aren’t always thinking about protecting it from those who wish to cheat the system. In the CPA world, fraud protection helps protect a form, but think through Facebook or Twitter, where they offer per-engagement advertising. Have they thought through a real “follow” or “Like,” versus one meant to simply charge a competitor?

Billing/Refunds: No one wants to give money back, but making it easy for customers to flag certain activity will make the long-term success of the platform achieved with less friction.

Account Management/Customer Service: New platforms mean new ways of doing business. How do you train those servicing the clients on the platform not just to answer basic set up questions, but to leverage them to extract the most out of your clients? When should you even have account management versus customer service? Do you have email only, phone too, or perhaps save one for bigger spenders?

Pricing: How do you figure out what a suggested starting bid should be, how many impressions is a test, when to scale up or down, how to decide whether to give up on a creative or the campaign, and so on?

Identity/Ownership: Facebook and Twitter have elements of domain name ownership, i.e. a form of identity. The person who signs up might be real, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to claim the piece of digital landscape they did. On a user level, it means a process for identifying and dealing with squatting as well as creating a way to control unauthorized brand usage.


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