Brands, Don’t Let TV Enter the Cheesy Digital Dating Scene.
Brands use silly metrics to cobble together “premium” digital media plans because most media buyers are more interested in spending the full budget at a low price. As TV goes digital, there is a big risk that premium placements erode in favor of the high volume, low price mantra of digital. This would be terrible for long-term brand goals.
Brands looking for quality digital media often say that they prefer to work with “premium publishers.” After some thorough research (i.e. a few Google searches) it appears that there is no official definition of a “premium publisher.” In fact, “premium” can refer to brand legacy, content quality, a lack of fraud and even to rate card rates. Unlike on linear TV where inventory is scarce and quality is based on content and audience metrics, digital media buyers have a lot of leeway when determining what premium inventory looks like. They can use the Comscore 200, the Alexa 1,000, viewability, publisher brand recognition and more to help them cobble a definition together. As a result, many digital media buyers merely pay lip service to creating a premium media plan in favor of low prices and high scale and many publishers have dumbed down their offerings to meet this demand, hence the issues with clutter, viewability, and fraud.
Asking for quality while defaulting to low prices and high scale is similar to using Tinder to find the person you want to marry. You’re using a methodology that indicates that you’re looking for a one night stand and so you end up with partners who are one night stand material, not the marrying type. Now that TV is going digital, media buying is set to change dramatically. Advertisers need to create better standards now or risk seeing their high quality TV media buying business get sucked into the cheesy dating scene of digital media.
Brands that are serious about creating a premium quality plan should treat media planning more like a paid engagement with eHarmony than a late-night Tinder frenzy. Advertisers must create a foolproof way to ensure that every possible placement passes muster with a more hands-on approach to premium publisher standards.
Get To Know Your Partners Personally
Just like reviewing a potential mate’s profile, it pays to understand a publisher’s history and get to know them. If you haven’t heard of the publisher, or if their content is undifferentiated and generic, be suspicious.
If it wouldn’t work on TV, it shouldn’t work online either. Content should be relevant, updated frequently and well made. Audience data should match the content of the site. Be suspicious if a site called “ilovefranksinatra.com” indexes well with millennials. Additionally, if a publisher’s unique user count has mysteriously shot up in the last month or two, you deserve a good explanation.
It’s also important to check out who a publisher associates with. These days, digital publishers work with a wide variety of advertising vendors and partners from DSPs to ad networks to content extension nextworks, most of which are quite well known to media buyers. Media buyers can triangulate on publisher quality simply by looking at which vendors a publisher works with most. If they’re represented by vendors who frequently get flagged for fraud, offer low quality services, or create bad user experiences, that’s a good indicator that the publisher’s quality is compromised and would make a bad long term match.
Consider the Complete Package
A guy who spends a lot on a first date may be a worse choice than a guy who’s saving for a house and spends more wisely. The same goes for websites. Advertisers need to be wary of sites that put short-term advertising revenue ahead of a long-term quality user experience. A good user experience shows relevant, quality content above the fold that loads quickly and works on a wide variety of screens. Sites need to invest time and technology in user experience, and may have to sacrifice scale as a result, but their performance and user loyalty will be better in the long run.
User experience is not just about the content on the page, it’s also about the advertising itself. Unlike TV or print where all ads are basically adhering to the same format, digital advertising comes in an endless variety of flavors, many of which make for terrible user experiences. If an ad makes a site load slowly, the brand stands to lose as much as the publishers. Pop-ups, clutter, slow video ads, adwalls – these are harmful ways to showcase your message to a consumer. They cause frustration and negativity.
Don’t Get “Catfished”
There are plenty of sites out there masquerading as high quality, but with just one date, it’s easy to see that they’re not up to par. Just like the classic online dating scam called “catfishing,” not everyone you meet is what they appear. While it’s easy to review a TV show for content, digital quality control is more nuanced, but just and important. In the top ten results for a search on “Super Tuesday” are CNN and the Washington Post as well as uspresidentialelectionnews.com, a site with a nice picture of the White House at the top. But there’s no Super Tuesday content above the fold, the site is full of popups, and the small amount of content they have is hidden behind useless user surveys. The site obviously shouldn’t be on a premium media plan, but that’s not clear until you actually take a look, which advertisers should urge their media buyers to do.
Unfortunately, with sites like these competing for attention, even the most trusted sites can get desperate for traffic, and even more desperate to earn revenue from it. If brands don’t make a concerted effort to define and stick to premium quality standards now, many TV sites could fall victim to the problems that plague digital websites. Make sure your publisher partners don’t employ cheap tricks like auto-play video within banners, insane clutter, content that doesn’t start until well below the fold, or ads that are “viewable” for a second or two. If necessary, have a heart-to-heart with publishers who have premium potential but are employing low quality tactics that they’re in danger of getting dumped.
Most important, if an advertiser really means to limit themselves to “premium” placements, then they need to be selective, exclusive even. Brands need to create their own standard for premium media that fits their brand’s particularities as media starts to converge. A media plan focused on premium content must prioritize these quality standards over scale or bargain basement prices. Relevance, context and other aspects of a site should take precedent over traffic numbers or click through rates no matter the channel.