Premium Inventory: The Real Philosopher’s Stone


ADOTAS – There’s a serious problem in the interactive advertising industry that springs from a misconception about inventory quality. Like ancient alchemists, some in the industry claim they can use behavioral and social clues to generate brand ROI from substandard inventory. But the fact is, just as it’s impossible to transmute base metals like lead into gold, it’s impossible to spin poor quality inventory into higher brand equity and sales. Moreover, when companies associate their brands with substandard inventory, their brands suffer.

It’s easy to be tempted by the prospect of $.40 CPM or $.05 CPC rates. However, cut-rate CPM and CPC strategies can not only fail to deliver the ROI you expect – they can actually harm your brand by associating it with irrelevant, inappropriate, offensive or even illegal content. An Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report found that many world-renowned brands are associated online with pirated material and other inappropriate content. The companies didn’t intentionally link their brands with questionable inventory, and in many cases, they issued specific instructions to safeguard against it.

However, ad distribution can be incredibly complex. And because they are still operating under the illusion that they can use substandard inventory to generate ROI, many online advertising networks are not careful about where they place ads. Most people don’t click banner ads, but if a consumer sees your brand next to hate speech, profanity or illegal activities online, they could get the impression that your company actively supports that content. Substandard inventory is also associated with a heightened risk of click and impression fraud.

To elevate brand awareness and reach relevant audiences, companies need to rethink their online advertising strategies and ensure that they protect their brands. It’s the responsible thing to do from a brand management standpoint. But it’s also the best strategy for driving ROI. A recent CMO Council study found that in the current environment, only 5 percent of marketers rate their online marketing performance as “excellent” in terms of ROI and metrics. This clearly illustrates the futility of trying to turn questionable inventory into advertising gold.

Premium inventory delivers quality brand impressions and ROI. It’s not only because quality content tends to attract users who are more likely to make a purchase – there’s another intangible at play, a trust factor that transfers from the content to the advertised brand. It’s hard to put a price on that, but it is clear that low-quality inventory has a much higher association with impression and click fraud and that higher levels of trust result in increased ROI.

So how can you be certain you are dealing with an ad network that understands the value of trust – a network that offers more than empty promises about ROI and works with you to protect your brand? One way is to ask them for inventory quality ratings produced by independent third parties. AdSafe Media is a leader in online content rating and scores ad networks and exchanges on their content quality. The industry average is 100, so potential ad network customers can take a look at their prospective network partner’s rating and assess the quality level using that benchmark.

It’s also important to remember that the danger of placing your brand next to questionable content isn’t just confined to shady networks: When you make a media buy, even the largest networks can inadvertently place your brand with inappropriate content such as pirated material. It pays to do the research and make informed decisions about your online advertising strategy.

Working with a premium-only network that has a high AdSafe Media rating is the best way to deliver impressions and drive sales while protecting your company’s most important asset: its brand. The upfront costs are higher, but you’ll also get results. That’s because while there are no magic transmutation processes in the industry, premium inventory is the closest thing we have to a Philosopher’s Stone.


  1. While I completely agree brands should be acutely aware of buying premium vs remnant inventory…

    The best way to get the best inventory is to buy directly from a publisher, not through an ad network.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here