Advertising.com announced an “automated”, IAB standards compliant rich media ad network today comprised of all of their publisher sites totaling 78MM unique visitors per month and over 2.4 billion monthly rich media ad impressions. When considering these numbers keep in mind that most advertisers view true rich media as the more interactive formats provided by companies like PointRoll (the current rich media heavyweight), DART Motif and others like AdInterax who made news of their own recently with an innovative rich media ad format with publisher CNET. What’s less known is that standard Flash ads are considered rich media advertising and since nearly all publisher sites accept Flash these days it’s not really saying much to laud these kinds of numbers when citing reach.
On the bright side what I like about their approach is that they’re bundling popular rich media vendors in with their buy to smooth out the work flow that wastes time between advertiser, agency, rich media vendor and publisher which should definitely save the advertiser time and money in the long run. I’ll be interested to hear from my friends at Advertising.com as to what exactly they mean by this part of their press release:
“Further simplifying the process for advertisers, Advertising.com has standardized ad specifications for the network and has established partnerships with preferred media vendors Eyeblaster, PointRoll and DART Motif. This will make it easier for advertisers to create and serve rich-media advertisements without additional serving fees.”
All rich media ad vendors like PointRoll charge a cost-per-thousand (CPM) fee to use their rich media ad serving platform to serve ads. What is less clear about Advertising.com’s PR is how their new network is going to save on those serving fees. You can be sure that the rich media vendors aren’t going to give away their product. I would speculate that Advertising.com is negotiating a lower CPM rate based on volume and then bundling the real cost in to their advertiser prices so they can make the rich media costs more transparent for ad agencies and national advertisers. Good thinking, but hardly innovative.
Advertising.com has always been scrappy and is smart for making it easier for advertisers to buy more rich media ads since they drive better results for advertisers in both brand and direct response metrics and they make Advertising.com and the publishers more money as well.
Rich media advertising certainly falls in the almost-too-good-to-be-true category but I’m a true believer in the formats after leading the interactive national sales team for Knight Ridder Digital and later running their Ad Operations group for over five years. If you don’t know the term Ad Ops, or Advertising Operations, it’s really the online equivalent of traditional sales operations, sales support and sales process all mixed together with the technical Internet gadgetry that includes ad serving software and hardware, reporting, analytics and the like. Rich media is very much the bastion of an Ad Ops team. Ad Ops is where the rubber meets the road and sales and advertiser expectations come crashing down around the technical complexity and lack of understanding around these ads that is still prevalent today. You have to consider everything from the complex authoring of interactive ad formats to how the heck you can actually get them to deliver on your site without substantially degrading site performance or user experience. Expand that challenge to a network, as I once did for 40 sites with another 60 affiliates with different web publishing platforms and you begin to realize that a standards-based network approach is a good thing.
Of course, this has been done many times before in both the bricks and mortar world as well as on the Internet. There are many networks but their depth is what sets them apart. For Advertising.com’s network to have any real impact in the market we’ll have to wait and see how deep their more complex rich media formats can extend in to those 78MM unique visitors. Finally, I’ll wait to see what they really mean by ‘automation,’ since in the past their technology hasn’t always supported smooth work flow.