April 25th, 2013

Content is Still King


Peter Daboll

In all my years of web and advertising analytics, I have never heard the phrase “placement is king.” I haven’t heard the phrase “targeting is king” either, come to think of it. Content is STILL King especially when it comes to ads. It was true before the Internet, in the early days of the web, and even more important now with new video and mobile content platforms.

In its Digital Trends for 2013 brief, Econsultancy states that “[Marketers} need to be on top of your brand’s look, feel, and message from a creative standpoint, but also be aware of the science that puts your brand in front of the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.” The study also reported, not surprisingly, that “84% of marketers responded that their marketing activity will be more measurable in 2013 vs. 2012.

Marketers need to be accountable on both the quality of the creative and ad delivery. But, typically, marketing’s use of metrics to evaluate campaigns is selective and focused on how well the campaign was delivered—often ignoring the key fact that a large component of the overall effectiveness of a campaign is directly due to the quality of the CREATIVE. Placement and audience targeting have been the central part of the optimization and automation efforts because those metrics were the only ones available. Yet, we all know that no matter how well targeted, a terrible ad won’t perform.

For this reason, it’s high time that optimization efforts incorporate creative effectiveness scores, particularly now that this data is so readily available. [To be clear, I am not talking about the practice of selecting the best performing creatives from a small group of internal alternatives. This is insufficient to understand the relative strength of the creative across all competing ads in the optimization. ]

The singular focus on measuring and optimizing the DELIVERY of an ad (vs. the creative effectiveness) has lead to another hot trend in the industry: programmatic ad buying. GigaOm reported that “a new study by Forrester Research claims that so-called “programmatic” buying or ‘real time bidding’ will account for nearly 25 percent of online video ad purchases by next year.” There is a legitimate concern that automated buying systems will lead to the commoditization of video advertising on the web, driving prices down as a result of automated buying/selling on ad exchanges. I don’t think this will happen.

RTB /programmatic buying can be a good thing, but it is all about efficiency. No question, you want your ad buying to be as efficient as possible and not over-pay for eyeballs. To a modeler, the task is a straightforward yield management problem of supply and demand. Eliminate waste by providing the most efficient marketplace; where eyeballs are eyeballs, and every ad has equal quality. But the advertising equation is not that simple, with the result too often being a terrible ad that’s well delivered. Ad networks/servers are often blamed for campaign performance, when in fact that poor performance was due to the terrible creative.  Without the metrics to monitor, corrective action is taken on something that may not be broken. Ad networks, servers and agencies are all asking for better metrics on the creative itself simply because there is too much value in the creative, to ignore that metric in the optimization.

The value of the creative, is not only of primary importance to the advertisers and viewer, but the networks/publishers as well.  A great ad, well targeted—relevant and engaging ­– dramatically reduces the likelihood of the viewer leaving or being alienated. Great creative floats all boats. It is not a zero sum game where if one participant wins another loses.

We live in the era of “both/and” evolved from the days of “either/or”.  “Great content + informed algoritms”, says the Econsultancy study, is the reason for excitement in 2013. Efficient delivery and effective creative combined with the metrics stream to optimize both, is the new normal.

Yes, content is king. Especially on the Internet, where the incremental cost of an incremental impression is almost zero.  It’s the “with what” that matters.  And measuring and optimizing what matters will drive value across the advertising ecosystem.


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