"Brand Aware" is a column on the data-driven digital ad ecosystem from the marketer's point of view. It is written by Bob Arnold, Director of Digital and Social Media at Kellogg Company.
One of my main responsibilities for Kellogg is to steward all of its digital media spend in North America, so a lot of media pitches and proposals end up on my desk. In just about every one of these, a publisher claims to have “premium” inventory, backing up the claim with a multitude of reasons why they deserve this label. And why shouldn’t they? After all, there is no universally accepted definition of “premium” inventory, and I’d argue that, like beauty, “premium” is in the eye of the beholder.
That said, as someone who invests heavily in programmatic buying, I want to share my perspective of what makes inventory “premium.” Keep in mind that this is my perspective as a brand advertiser who does only a negligible amount of direct-response marketing. So success equals driving top-of-mind brand awareness, purchasing intent-to-grow sales and building brand equity and affinity.
For me, the definition of premium inventory is “inventory that enables the highest probability to increase sales and long-term brand equity.” That is a high-level definition, so here are the attributes that I feel do and don’t make ad inventory “premium.”
Any one of the following, alone, is not enough to make inventory premium:
1) Viewability: Obviously, the ads need to be viewable. That said, having viewable inventory in and of itself is not enough, in my mind, to constitute “premium.” Viewability is a bottom-line expectation.
2) Contextually Relevant: To be clear, I’m in no way saying that having contextually relevant inventory is a bad thing. In fact, purely intuitively, I think there’s significant value in context. That said, it’s very hard to define what is or is not contextually relevant, and even more difficult to measure its value. How do I know (in a scalable and measureable way) that one publisher is more contextually relevant and, therefore, worth the extra cost? So while I do value contextual relevancy, in most cases – without a systemic measurement – it’s hard for me to consider inventory “premium” just because the publisher says it’s more “contextually relevant.”
3) 100% Share Of Voice: 100% SOV (for a site or a section of a site) can be very beneficial in certain situations, e.g. during a competitive play when we need to squeeze out competition. But that’s a rare situation. Having 100% SOV means we have no ability to frequency cap and, after a certain point, impressions will begin to deliver diminishing returns. Assuming a CPM model, this leads to lower ROIs. That’s not “premium.”
What premium inventory is:
1) Transparency: I want to better understand what drives advertising effectiveness, and to optimize our advertising based on what we’ve learned. While publishers want us to be successful so that we’ll continue to partner with them, few are willing to be transparent enough to truly help us get the data points we need to gain insight about – and optimize – our campaigns. I value transparency and reward it with sustained business as well as transparency into our results, in return, to help publishers improve and value their inventory.
2) Targeting Data: Based on internal testing, we’ve found that using targeting data strongly enhances ROI; however, not all data is created equally. For example, third-party data (while still valuable) is not a differentiator, but first-party publisher data that ties in closely with our consumer/shopper insights is.
3) Innovation: Whether it’s a new ad format, targeting technique, or something else, we’re always looking out for something new to try – with two caveats. First, it needs to be scalable. When I find something valuable, my role requires me to drive to as many brands as possible. Second, it needs to be measurable. I’m an engineer by background and all my internships were in the Toyota Production System, where the mantra was “You can’t improve what you can’t measure.” I think much of Kellogg’s success is due to our relentless analytics approach. We’re willing to invest our funds, time and expertise to measure exciting innovations.
In a hyper-changing world of media buying, where data and automation are becoming increasingly commonplace among brand marketers, I strongly believe that – to fulfill the promise of programmatic buying – advertisers and publishers need to come together and form true partnerships that benefit both sides. I hope I have provided some actionable insights here about what brand marketers are seeking, and that this creates opportunities to drive stronger partnerships going forward.