Online media planners and buyers lost at sea

It’s tough to be an online media planner or buyer right now. Nearly every planner or buyer that I talk to is swimming in an ever-deepening pool of data and demands. Over the past few years, the number of publishers and ad networks vying for their attention has increased dramatically. Engaging audiences through advertising has become more difficult as consumers increasingly ignore traditional display ads. Reaching those audiences at scale is more challenging because consumer attention is fragmenting across a growing number of online properties. Finally, advertisers have become more demanding about efficient allocation of their ad budgets given the assumed measurability of online media and all of the various forms that online advertising can take (display, search, contextual, behavioral, CPM, CPC, CPA and on and on). All of this is happening while agencies come to the realization that it’s impractical to separate planning and buying from creative development for online advertising.

Despite all of this rapid change, the tools that agencies use to determine how and where to spend money are still largely the same as the ones that they used early this decade. comScore, AdRelevance and @Plan (the latter two from Nielsen//NetRatings) remain the standard tools that most agencies rely on for online planning purposes. Buying is still largely a manual, time-consuming process, despite efforts to streamline the process with products such as MediaVisor. And forget about trying to optimize creative or spend on the basis of actual business results or ROI. Without the emergence of more useful tools and services to aid agencies in planning, buying, measuring and optimizing, the share of ad budgets allocated to online media (7.5% today according to Yankee Group) will continue to lag consumption of online media as a percentage of total media consumption (20% today). Innovative products and services are critical to the many businesses that are counting on ad revenue to survive. New ad-supported businesses will have a hard time seeing ad dollars flow their way without help for agencies that are dealing with a flood of opportunities and data. Today, agencies use the approach of clinging to the sites and formats that they already know. The entire industry needs to help agencies (and advertisers) navigate increasingly turbulent waters so that they in turn can find and justify throwing lifelines (in the form of ad dollars) to fledgling online properties.

Fortunately for agencies and advertisers, entrepreneurs who have lived and breathed online advertising during its early years are now recognizing the opportunity to help address these problems.  VisualIQ, Quantcast, Balihoo and Covario are examples of companies that are attempting to provide more data to agencies and to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their processes. I’m eager to see additional tools and services and the widespread adoption of them by agencies and brands. Only then will agencies, advertisers and ad-supported businesses be able to collectively withstand the waves of change that they are facing. Please let me know if you have come across any interesting products or services that help agencies or advertisers plan, purchase and optimize online media. All of us in the online media industry will sink or swim together!

5 thoughts on “Online media planners and buyers lost at sea

  1. There are some great tools that agencies can adopt, but remember, we need to adopt them. Once we do adopt them, our teams need to be trained on them and then rolled into the media planning process. I think the one area that people seem to forget about is the internal adoption curve. The digital media scene moves so quickly, it’s impossible for any one person to understand every single player.

  2. I’m in vehement agreement with you, Darren. The agencies that take advantage of these emerging tools by putting them in the hands of educated people with defined processes will be the ones that succeed over the coming decades. There is no doubt the internal adoption curve is an issue, as evidence by the inability for any company, including Google, to make inroads on the ad serving front given the “stickiness” of DFA.

  3. I’m with Çlickable and we’re answering the problem of overwhelming complexity in the online advertising marketplace. It’s killing everyone across the spectrum, but especially among the smaller advertisers, who, collectively, represent half the online advertising economy. Practically, Clickable today is an online solution to make search advertising simple and effective for small and midsize advertisers. We’re delivering an Apple-like experience to managing campaigns across all the major ad networks, while transforming complex analytics into actionable recommendations. This is all part of a larger trend in marketing automation — whereby machines make humans bionic. In the process, advertising grunt work becomes commoditized and expectations of premium value increase. Feel free to check us out at
    Vp-Marketing, Clickable

  4. Pingback: Lotame Learnings » Blog Archive » 3 Reasons why data will save online advertising

  5. Pingback: Lotame | Initial Hypothesis

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