“The Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.
Today’s column is written by Andrew Casale, president and CEO at Index Exchange.
When yield optimization strategies for publishers come up, real-time bidding and advertising automation technologies are the first things that come to mind. And rightfully so, because those technologies have evolved specifically to drive higher CPMs, monetize unsold inventory and deliver the most revenue to publishers.
But it’s not the only game in town. There’s a platform that every publisher already has and relies upon, but one they might not think about for driving yield: their content management system (CMS).
That’s right, the CMS, that old production workhorse, is – or should be, at any rate – a revenue driver. At the moment, it may not directly help monetize advertising inventory, but it will become increasingly important to digital publishers in the coming year.
As innovations such as header tags break down the current digital advertising model, which is based on selling static ads in a fixed position, advertising creative is becoming more agile. Publishers and their publisher systems must keep pace: The more flexibility in delivery, the more opportunity for sales.
Publishers can now work with marketers to develop more fluid creative that can change in real time, but the CMS needs to support those advancements and continue to innovate in their efforts to offer marketers greatly expanded opportunities for creative.
The reality of digital content consumption today is that the fragmentation of that content continues to spread across desktop, tablets and mobile devices, and publishers have to ensure they can conform. CMS systems now have an entirely new opportunity and publishers need to start thinking about the role that these systems play in their advertising strategies.
Many publishers end up developing their own in-house CMS because the opportunities for audience segmentation and monetization are limited in today’s generation of systems. This is a challenge and a resource drain for publishers that must dedicate resources to essentially build a digital printing press on their own.
Facebook, which lets publishers push content directly to their platform from their own CMS, is one option with great reach, but is only one of multiple platforms publishers need to leverage for their publishing needs.
There have been huge advancements in programmatic advertising and RTB over the past few years, but when you get right down to it, they have been largely focused on automating the sale of an ad in a fixed position at a fixed size. In other words, they are an attempt to impose the standard print advertising model on inventory as diverse as display, video and mobile.
So while the digital advertising industry has created marvelous improvements in workflow and automation tools for buyers and sellers, the end result is often just selling a static, fixed unit.
We can now confidently ascertain that a particular consumer is of interest to a marketer. But the marketer still has to conform to whatever inventory is available. If shoe stores worked like today’s digital advertising, you’d need to change the size of your feet every time you bought a new pair of sneakers.
This should be a turning point in the digital advertising industry. We need to break the current construct apart. Once a marketer has identified an audience, they should be able to pick and serve any potential ad execution they want.
The industry needs to enable the creative unit to become open to every possibility that fits the need of the marketer, from audience and placement to size and creative content. This becomes a competitive advantage for publishers, as varying executions will invariably command varying – and often higher – prices.
For example, a publisher today may have three standard IAB ad sizes on a single page. What if, in real time, you could ask the market if it wanted to expand ad player skin size, or use a bigger creative canvas? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the CMS to just have the ability to accommodate the ad size that would drive higher yield?
To make this possible, though, CMS systems will need to integrate directly with publisher facing ad tech systems. Why can’t a CMS create a display ad that is just as good as the surrounding content? And why can’t a CMS provide the same kind of demographic and audience reporting as the publisher’s ad tech stack?
It’s these kinds of limitations that the next wave of CMS can address by integrating seamlessly with advertising technology partners to deliver publishers with better targeting and reporting, and even by facilitating a seamless approach to advertising and content. Eventually, they’ll essentially become an adjunct module to the ad tech stack.
If a publisher can make any content conform to any ad, this creates a promised land for marketers, publishers and consumers.
Ad creative can now be truly tailored in the interest of the user, to ensure a vastly improved experience. Publishers enjoy higher yields on their real estate, and marketers get much more effective messaging canvasses.
But the key is including the CMS systems in the equation and the conversation so that ads remain relevant. This is particularly important in today’s age of ad blocking, where increasingly the consumer’s say in the ad experience is paramount.
We’ve come far from selling hard-coded static banners in fixed positions. As publisher CMS systems fully integrate with their advertising platforms, the advertising experience will increasingly become an ever-more-customizable experience for advertisers, publishers and consumers, leveraging programmatic to an even greater degree than we do today.