Monday, June 25, 2007

Guide to Emerging Ad Networks

To help you cut through the complexity today's niche ad networks, here are brief descriptions of the major characteristics, each one accompanied by a list of ad networks that fit the descriptions.

RSS feeds and blogs

RSS feeds and blogs represent a seldom-used opportunity for publishers to better monetize their content. A year or two ago, there was debate over whether advertising in feeds was viable and, if so, if it was it worth it or would it repel subscribers? Google's entrance into the marketplace helped validate the model when it acquired Feedburner last month. Feedburner, as well as Pheedo, provides enabling technologies for advertisers to insert their feed into outside RSS feeds. They also represent a network of sites with RSS feeds that can be bought by advertisers, which allows advertisers to dynamically insert both text and graphics into the network of feeds.

Targeting, for the most part, can be done contextually by category of sites. The most effective RSS advertising is related to the feed's content and is content-driven.

CPM rate cards range from approximately $5 to $15 for B2C-focused feeds and $15 to $50 for B2B-focused feeds, depending on the degree of targeting.

Examples include:
FeedBurner (acquired by Google)
Google AdSense (in Beta)


As of April of this year, Apple's iPod has sold more than 100 million units worldwide, making it the most successful digital audio player in history. In addition to the success of the iPod, there are multiple MP3 players available to consumers and mobile devices now that phones are progressively more equipped to store digital content such as music and video. As a result, there is a marked increase in the amount of downloadable, serialized short-form content such as podcasts.

As with RSS advertising, one of the major advantages is that the media environment is still uncluttered. Additionally, an advertiser can reach an active, engaged audience because consumers have self-selected themselves as subscribers. Deploying ads on podcasts is becoming simpler as well, as companies like Fruitcast have begun to emulate the Google AdSense model of a pay-per-click, automated marketplace.

Examples include:

Mobile advertising

Advertising on mobile phones is perhaps one of the most complicated, least understood potential marketing platforms. One of the factors contributing to its complexity is the number of players involved in deploying ads on mobile phones. Unlike web advertising, which operates on the principles of an open network, mobile advertising is constrained by the carriers. The dream of geo-relevant, targeted advertising on mobile platforms can only be unlocked by carriers agreeing to share that information, which is highly unlikely in the short-term given the privacy issues involved. However, despite some of these barriers there is strong incentive for carriers to offset content development and data delivery costs through advertising. Sprint, through its partnership with Enpocket, is the first carrier to offer on-deck advertising on its network.

Another factor contributing to the complexity relates to the creative demands presented by mobile advertising. Advertising on WAP requires maintaining a WAP presence that consumers can click to. As a result, the best opportunity for mobile advertising is to reinforce mobile goals (such as building traffic to a WAP site) and use mobile messages to complement other marketing channels. Targeting is primarily contextual, although the networks also offer daypart, device and carrier targeting and frequency caps.

Mobile advertising also faces the same challenges as the other categories mentioned: namely, reach and scale. To address these challenges, there are now numerous mobile networks that have sprung up to ease the complexity and offer advertisers the ability to deploy mobile ads across multiple devices, platforms and sites. The challenge for these networks is not related to pricing. Rather, the networks must prove the value proposition of mobile advertising.

Examples include:
Greystripe (mobile games)
Third Screen Media (owned by AOL)

In-game advertising

It's no secret that the television networks are losing young men (ages 18-34) as they spend more time online and playing games. This is one of the reasons in-game advertising is so attractive to brands trying to reach this elusive demographic. It's also one of the reasons Yankee Group estimates that the in-game advertising market will grow to $732 million by 2010.

In-game advertising offers an engaged, active audience. Additionally, for many games, such as racing and sports, advertising enhances the reality of the virtual world. Consumers expect advertising in these ecosystems because it mirrors real-world environments. As long as the advertising is relevant and natural, it seems to be welcomed by audiences and even seems to perform better than other ad forms. A recent study by Forrester found that recall rates for in-game ads ranged from 30-40 percent compared to an average of 10 percent for television advertising.

There is a wide range of creative inserted into gaming environments, including billboards, posters, video, audio and sometimes even avatars or characters. However, in the past, most of those product placements had to be hard-coded into the game itself and couldn't be changed. The in-game ad networks not only offer advertising opportunities across multiple games, but they also offer insertion technology that allows marketers to serve their ads dynamically and in real-time.

Examples include:Adscape (acquired by Google)
Massive Inc. (acquired by Microsoft)

Video advertising networks

Of all the emerging ad platforms, video advertising is perhaps the one category that holds the most promise and is seeing the greatest increase in demand. While demand is strong, one of the challenges is growing the amount of available inventory. However, as broadband continues to expand and consumers increasingly demand more video content online, the issue of scale becomes less troublesome.

While online video advertising shows the most potential and strong demand from advertisers, it is not without other challenges. Like most of these emerging categories, the devil is in the details. Deployment is still a challenge, despite the emergence of networks designed to help marketers execute video smoothly.

One of the major frustrations cited by many marketers is the ability to synchronize their online video delivery with the ads delivered into the units adjacent to the video. Since consumers are unlikely to take action while watching pre-roll or interstitial video ads, it's crucial for marketers that publishers are also able to serve ads into the adjacent ad units, so consumers can take action at their leisure. Unfortunately, many advertisers report there is very little integration between the video advertising and the adjacent units. Currently, few publishers use the same technology to deliver their pre-roll advertising and their on-site advertising. As a result, analyzing the efficacy on video advertising is an exercise in futility. There is a lack of standardization for delivery, reporting and analysis. Additionally, advertisers uncomfortable with marketing on consumer-generated media should strongly consider if online video networks are appropriate for them.

Despite these complexities, the richness afforded by online video is proving irresistible to advertisers that are eager to exploit their television assets online. CPMs for online video tend to range from $15 to $40, significantly higher than television CPMs but are likely to drop as online video becomes a mainstream tactic. The explosion of online video networks, as well as the incorporation of video offerings on traditional web ad networks, bodes well for the future of online video, as does the upsurge in consumer usage. The primary challenge is offering a simplified, standardized solution to advertisers.

Examples include:
IVN (owned by Interep Interactive)

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