Thursday, March 8, 2007

Are Ad Networks Safe for Brands?

Of course they are, according to this iMediaConnection article in which the author interviews Joseph Apprendi. And who is Joseph Apprendi? He's the CEO of Collective Media, a "leading online advertising network specializing in audience targeting and optimization". And if you can't trust the CEO of an ad network, who can you trust?

To be fair, Apprendi does recognize the need of brand marketers for transparency, which is the number one point of contention between ad networks and advertisers. But he does suggest that the desires for 100% campaign (not just list) transparency and complete control over carve-outs are unreasonable, and does slightly mischaracterize the issue as one only of quality assurance. That's part of the issue, to be sure, but the one issue he would never bring up is that of bait-and-switch. We've seen this before -- ad network touts ESPN and CNN and iVillage as part of their networks, and you run with them, and within a week you're getting emails from your CEO with links to, wondering what the hell the media buyer is doing advertising a product clearly intended for adults on a site for little children. (Of course, you could reply asking your CEO what he's doing on such a site himself, but you wouldn't have to love your job too much to do that.)

Ad networks want nothing to do with the bait-and-switch discussion because for some of them, it's a core business strategy, and the others who might be sympathetic to a client's wishes don't want to pigeonhole themselves into a guarantee that's too hard to keep. Until the networks can figure out a way to give brand advertisers what they need (not just want), they're never going to become a must-have part of the plan.

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