Archive for the Online Advertising category

February 8th, 2010

OG – Downhill Skating Old San Marcos Pass

Posted in Online Advertising by sabotosh

February 6th, 2010

You get what you pay for – are low CPM’s really good for your Brand?


Step 1: Navigate to Crate & Barrel, put an item in your shopping cart and abandon the transaction.

Step 2: Navigate to pretty much any Entertainment site on the internet. The more borderline the better – since these sites do not have their own sales teams and do not have the contextually relevant content that command strong CPM’s from the adnets / advertisers.

Step 3: See a Crate & Barrel ad served from Google (probably indirectly through Adx).

I wonder if Crate & Barrel is ok with their ads serving on sites like and I’m sure the inventory is cheap to the adnet (facilitated by Google Adx) probably $0.25 – $1 CPM (to At that price and with re-targeting it probably converts incredibly well. Everybody is making money.

What’s the problem?

Crate & Barrel is most likely paying $2.50+ CPM for these re-targeted IMPR’s no matter where the adnet is finding the user. The adnet is likely making a very strong margin between what they are paying for the inventory and what Crate & Barrel is paying them. These being re-targeted users the ads are likely driving strong sales and ROI; especially when compared to a less targeted ad and/or an IMPR at a higher CPM (on a more premium site).

Effectively more premium IMPR’s on safer sites are more expensive and are less valuable in terms of margin to the adnet. These borderline entertainment sites are exactly the site inventory where the adnets make the most money – this is where the most revenue can be captured (margin) between what the advertiser is paying and what adnets have to pay publishers. 50%, 60%, 70% margins – this what arbitrage and being an adnet is all about – this is optimization.

Living with Contradiction

In the offline as opposed to online you don’t find Crate & Barrel ads on the Howard Stern show, Maxim Magazine, Spike TV, or the National Enquirer. You could argue Crate & Barrel customers read Maxim, listed to Howard Stern, watch Spike and read the National Inquirer; and with a little data Crate & Barrel could reach their customers here. But Crate & Barrel does not buy advertising on borderline entertainment content in the offline.

Why not?

Is this just a technology thing? Once radio / TV / Paper / Magazines all have an IP addresses and Cookies will content no longer matter? Hello Ipad, WiMax, 4G, Boxee, and Internet Radio.

Maybe there is something else / Maybe brand matters?

From what I can tell Crate & Barrel has made a tremendous effort to keep their brand premium in TV and Print mediums; I wonder if Crate & Barrel knows that their display ad strategy (by design) pushes ads to the lowest common denominator / lowest CPM content.

The question has to be – is it worth risking your brand image running brand ads on borderline content if this is where your audience is / if this is where the best ROI can be achieved?



December 16th, 2009

0.01% Click-Through-Rate

Posted in Online Advertising by sabotosh

Nobody clicks on an ad to buy a car; but that is exactly what many (most – let’s be real) brand advertisers and agencies demand in terms of campaign performance – to justify renewals.

We all go to conferences, read the industry reports all discounting the value of the click as a good campaign performance metric; but in the end the click wins.

Without a conversion event; most all campaigns are evaluated through the prism of the click – simply because we don’t have anything else to easily measure. But nobody clicks on an auto ad to buy a car – the attribution model is broken.

The following Auto ads (screenshot) ran a few weeks back on my site powered by Google AdSense. There was thumbs up / thumbs down voting built into the ads.


Could a valid attribution model be as easy as thumbs up / thumbs down? Think about it (Google is); could something this simple help validate brand campaign performance?

December 12th, 2009

Flash Cookies – Taste Better than Browser Cookies

Have you ever wondered why sites like seam to know who you are – even if you deleted your browser cookies recently?

Up to 100k, difficult to find, non transparent, non expiring, not cleared by any browser “Clear / Delete Cookie” functions – Flash Cookies are oh so very sweet for collecting data – so much better than plain old browser based Cookies.

I have heard the stories of ADNETS using Flash to re-spawn browser cookies when a user deletes their browser Cookies; but I had no idea just how many sites are using Flash Cookies for tracking.

Viewing my own Flash cookies (hundreds of entries) I identified no less than a dozen ADNET’s, ad servers, and online marketer cookies. My bank is even using them – they don’t even have flash on their site… Check Your Flash Cookies yourself…

Flash Cookies

Flash Cookie

Flash Cokies

Want more… check out this wired article on Flash Cookies.

November 30th, 2009

The Persuaders – invading the privacy of our minds

I started reading Shoptimism by Lee Eisenberg a few days ago. I have only gotten through 50 pages – but so far it’s an interesting read on consumer marketing. An early section on the work of Vance Packard and his exploration (in the 1950’s) of consumer motivational research by social scientist working for advertising agencies reminded me of an incredibly insightful (and somewhat frightening) PBS FrontLine documentary on the same topic. If you have not seen The Persuaders – it’s mandatory viewing for anyone interested in advertising and if your not living off the grid on some atoll in the South Pacific you should be interested in advertising right now.

With respect to Online Advertising check out the narrowcasting section and how marketers and political parties have been working with data vendors (Axiom in this case) to customize their packaging / messaging for every consumer segment – with all the recent talk in the ad industry about customization, personalization, the consumer in charge; makes you think.

August 20th, 2009

Don’t Run your Brand Ads on Yahoo Video!

An interesting thing happens on Yahoo Video when you disable the safe search function and search on “adult” type keywords. Porn videos and adjacent Brand Ads from multiple AdNets. Advertisers and AdNets beware of cheap inventory, you may just be getting what you pay for.



August 20th, 2009

Oprah and Dr Oz sue over Belly Fat Ads… Obey!

It looks like Oprah and Dr. Oz want their cut of belly fat ad revenue….. You know the ones you contacted your support rep at all the adnets to block form your site.

Hopefully Oprah and Dr. Oz will NOT go after the AdNets (most all of them ran some variation of this campaign) that facilitated these ads running on pretty much every website on the interwebs January – March 2009.


As of 8/20 there are no more Oprah endorsed Belly Fat Ads on MSNBC – but Rachael Ray is still fair game I guess.


Update: Adotas has a good article with more details here..

July 18th, 2009

Let’s do a test, next time I have a $1,000,000 budget.

April 19th, 2009

Are Ad Networks on the brink of Extinction?

Posted in Online Advertising by sabotosh

A colleague asked this the other day in response to an article from Adotas of the same name. Now if you have worked in the online ad space especially the remnant ad space it is easy to dismiss this argument as pie-in-the-sky. Sure every site would love to run direct ads and cut out the networks 30-60% technology fee but every site does not have a full time sales staff to put together these deals.

Even the larger sites that do have the resources for ad sales staff and have the luxury of being in premium verticals cannot always sell all their impression inventory and this is where the ad network and/or ad exchange comes into play. Most all publishers turn to ad networks to fill remnant impressions at some point.

On the advertiser side, ad networks / exchanges offer the advertiser the ability to run ads on premium publishers at prices pennies on the dollar of what they would have to pay running directly. Advertisers are also able to find strong performing sites and channels of aggregated sites that they might now have thought of. In this way ad networks deliver value to both advertisers and publishers.

Now this value proposition between ad networks, publishers, and advertisers works pretty well until an advertiser or an agency finds their brand clients ads running on a porn site. This was not as much of an issue in the past with direct response ads – sure ad networks and (DR) advertisers did not condone this practice; but it wasn’t going to get anyone sued and when these publishers were identified they were terminated from the responsible ad network.

In 2008 the game has changed, we are seeing more and more brand advertising coming online. Now advertisers and agencies are demanding full site disclosure from ad networks in order to protect their brands. What the advertisers may not know is that most all premium publishers have NDA’s in place with the networks they work with to protect their rate card. If an advertiser can buy inventory indirectly on premium sites for $0.50 – $2.50 CPM – why would they spend $5 – $40 CPM on a direct buy? The answer is they won’t. So at the end of the day we have advertisers that need to protect their brands and ad networks that need to protect their premium publishers.

So are networks / exchanges on the brink of extinction?, yes they are. At least the ones that do not provide a safe place for their advertisers and do not provide transparency to their partners. This does not have to be full site disclosure but ad networks need to provide their advertisers the ability to gain insight into where ads are actually running and publishers with transparency into what ads are running on thier site.

[UPDATE 8/22/2019]
All the ad networks have died, all the SSP’s and DSP’s have been consolidated / acquired into a handful of media companies.

April 19th, 2009

How do Malicious Ads get on Premium Ad Networks?

Posted in Online Advertising, Online Exchanges by sabotosh

So there are a few different kinds of display ad networks out there. This would include: general banner ad networks, advanced targeting ad networks, and exchanges.

The Ad Network world is certainly in a state of flux and these definitions are changing – but the general banner ad networks business model concentrates on performance type CPA (DR) offers. What this means is that they serve a whole lot of ads with a whole lot of offers for “Free Florida Vacations”. These networks are shall we say more liberal with the types of advertisers and publishers they work with.

The advanced targeting networks business model concentrates on highly targeted Brand type offers. This type of network generally offers very high CPM (high for remnant at least) but lower fill since they are only able to monetize qualified traffic. These networks generally are more restrictive in terms of the advertisers and publishers they work with because they need to be to work with premium partners to command premium rates.

The exchange is where all these networks collide; and indeed most all ad networks participate in some way with exchanges be it with MSN, RightMedia, and/or DoubleClick. It is in this marketplace where premium ad networks can be exposed to the more flexible policies of the general banner ad networks if they are buying and selling inventory. This issue is much worse when it is the exchange in questions policy not to provide adequate transparency between the advertiser, network, and publishers partners.