For Online Display Ads: Who Is More Important Than Where

When you see a completely irrelevant ad on TV you have to excuse the advertiser to a degree. They don’t know any better. They don’t know who is watching and whether or not you may be interested in their product. They are trying to reach their target audience with what limited data they have available and you happened to see it too. Mass media will always be extremely wasteful. The same level of forgiveness towards irrelevant ads online should not be excused.

This mindset, carried over from buying print and TV, when buying media online is that the placement of the ad is very important because its “borrowing brand equity” from the placement. With limited information on who is looking at the ad, this is a good way to go – its seems obvious that you wouldn’t put a diaper ad in Sports Illustrated. Publishers make a fortune convincing advertisers that their online placements are worth more than others placements because of this “equity” that they also give the advertiser. I disagree. Placements don’t matter online. What matters is the user.

The internet provides data about the mindset and behavior of the user that is impossible to know with print and TV media buying. If you know that the user is male, has a household income above $100K, recently visited sites about shaving, and did a search on Google for razors, than who cares if your ad for razors is shown to the user on a site selling diapers? It might even be more impactful because the ad is very different than the content on the page.

Stop buying placements, start buying individuals. This is possible online with demand-side platforms that bid in real-time for placement across multiple ad exchanges. Along with algorithmic and dynamic bidding that goes beyond rules-based tools to leverage data in a way that’s unique and evolves with consumers, you can focus on who sees your ads rather than where your ads are seen.

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