Here’s How to Fix Digital Advertising

Jason Krebs was until recently the chief media officer at Tremor Video. He was a co-
founder of ShortTail Media and held executive positions at The New York Times and
Conde Nast. Follow him on Twitter @jasonkrebs.

Let’s start off by killing the RFP. That would be a good beginning to fixing what ails the digital media business. The rationale is that everyone wants to make themselves sound like their strategy is to secure advertising dollars currently being allocated to television.

Do you know what business doesn’t use RFPs? The TV business.

The original purpose of an RFP is sound. When a business entity wants to get detailed
information about a partner that can fulfill a service, it requests a proposal that generally is reliant on thoughts and ideas. If only. The majority of digital media RFPs focus on ad sizes and pricing. Publishers willing to have their value proposition equated to a unit price on a spreadsheet (and trust me, that’s the first thing the agency is looking for) might as well throw in the towel.

Next, let’s talk about this industry’s irrational, self-defeating click addiction. Recently I
read a fairly intelligent article about the beauty of those newfangled advertorial native ad
models on the Internet. It was making a good sell of it. Then it all came crashing down
when the author wrote, “click-throughs are higher on native ads.” Really? We’re
doing all this work to try and change the game, put our big boy pants on (Thanks Kobe),
be taken seriously by marketers as a viable portion of the marketing mix, and then we
still try explain that the measure of success for this advertising comes as the result of a
click?

Note to salespeople out there: If you find yourself pointing to click throughs as a means
of how well your ad program performed for the advertiser, just give it up right now
because this makes you undifferentiated from everone else. But I’ve been saying this
for the past 10 years and not many care to adhere. At the very least, if you want to
sound nominally intelligent while citing clicks, tell the person how many unique human
beings those clicks represent. If you don’t have that second feature, you really should
adjust your career expectations at your current place of employment.

The good news is these twin problems are fixable. The bad news is the industry needs
those who are willing to be strong enough to dramatically change their game and take
their balls with them. After all, ball don’t lie.

Here’s the plan: Publishers, take every banner ad off of your site. Not just the ones you stuffed at the bottom on the page that nobody sees anyway. Remove each and every single one. Replace those small, ugly boxes with a full-screen, 30-second video interstitial to be displayed on every third page viewed per customer session. Sell the value of that video ad to marketers based on the quality of your content and the strength of your audience. Now, repeat after me: The ads do not need to have a click through to the advertiser’s website. The ad can be skipped by your reader/viewer after 10 seconds of play time.

This process levels the playing field for all publishers and creators of quality content. It
values the ad placement itself and relies on the quality of the creative to have a desired
effect. It does not rely on direct response. It does not limit the creative palette to a tiny
section of real estate. It does not take place at the bottom or side of a page.

This will create a numerator (the audience of a website) and a denominator (adding just
a handful of brand-name Web publishers will deliver 100 percent of the U.S. audience)
so that you can show your clients real reach and frequency — and then yes, maybe
even get a hold of those TV dollars.

Oh, by the way, this will work for mobile, too.

Image via Shutterstock