Are networks right for online buys?

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A recent survey suggests advertisers want ad networks to provide more insight into where their ads will be placed online before the media buy. Are concerns over lack of transparency limiting online display ad spend?  

Lee Slovitt
Senior director, media,
Heartbeat Digital

Display networks represent an integral part of many media plans. They provide reach and frequency with relatively high efficiency and afford advertisers multiple optimization opportunities. Transparency is something network sales reps are repeatedly forced to tackle. However, I do not think lack of transparency limits budgets. First, fully transparent networks do exist—some even allow advertisers to “cherry-pick” sites to build a custom network for their particular needs. Second, there are alternative options in which to run display ads. Third, efficiency can be achieved in other ways, such as pay-for-performance models. Soon all networks will be forced into complete transparency and until pharmas increase their digital allocations to achieve high share-of-voice online, there are plenty of non-network options.

Joshua Kotowski
Senior digital media planner,

Various considerations can impact online display ad spend: objectives, budget, understanding of ad networks and performance. Ad networks offer broad reach and more impressions with great cost effectiveness; opting to add specific placements adds cost, but may be justified. Whether to reach a target audience through a network, premium site or a mix depends on the product, objectives and budget. It's important to recognize that credible ad networks—whether they provide full transparency or not—have insights and competencies that allow them to develop appropriate channels. Advertisers who place too much value on transparency may end up hindering the ability of an ad network to do its job AND the effectiveness of a campaign.

Larry Mickelberg
Chief digital officer,
Euro RSCG Life Worldwide

For years, ad networks weren't right for our clients, with widely scattered placements that could be off-strategy, or worse, inappropriate. Today, they've matured to the point where they represent a key component of a smart media plan. Most major networks offer full transparency and control over when and where ad units run, affording agencies and clients superior reach and efficiency with far less risk than before.  There is also a new breed of independent online ad verifications services that add an additional layer of protection. Working this way does require careful attention and stewardship on the part of agencies, but it's worth the effort and can help brands gain advantage. If your brand is being rate limited online by transparency issues, perhaps the limitation isn't the medium, but rather your agency.

Mandy Buhler
Media director,
HC&B Healthcare Communications

Lack of transparency is definitely a hot topic in the online media community. As the number of online networks has grown to over 400, the concern for improved transparency has also grown. One solution is to buy direct from the publisher, although this may not be a practical option for small shops managing campaigns with 100+ publishers. Agencies can also choose to work with third-party auditors—a new option that could make transparency issues a thing of the past. Third-party display auditors have one goal in mind—improve ROI by ensuring client dollars are not wasted. For a media planner, this means greater peace-of-mind when signing that million dollar display contract!
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