Super-brand Ad Networks

April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Let’s leave aside all the competitive clamoring for a moment and focus purely on the good ideas. Here’s one: super-brand ad networks as described by Cameron Hulett at Accleration Media in the U.K. in a post on the IAB U.K.’s web site. He proposes that, “publishers with strong brands – super-brands – should consider building their own ad networks.”

Russ Fradin, CEO at Adify, has written a lot about this notion since launching his company to build vertical ad networks in 2005. Collective Media, mentioned in Hulett’s article, also has a network building business; and, of course, so does Burst. We got into licensing our adConductor technology platform with the launch of the TACODA Audience Network several years ago and support several (super) brand media networks today.

There a good commercial reasons to help media brands build ad networks, a view our competitors obviously share. We make money working for companies that might not otherwise hire Burst to sell advertising through its proprietary network businesses.  And, in many cases, at least here, we get to rub shoulders with the high and mighty in the media world, which we like to think helps polish our own brand.

Secretly, however, there is better reason for us, or anyone, to be staunch advocates of ad network building among media brands (call them “super-brands” if it helps differentiate them from the plethora of other third-party ad networks out there): it makes significant, positive use of online media. Branded vertical networks align perfectly with the consumer value of the Internet, which is relevant content, and with the business reality, which is the dissolution of the protective barriers to entry that exist offline.

Mr. Hulett’s proposal is really, therefore, an imperative. “Super-brands” must either find ways to build networks online or simply revert to smaller, leaner versions of their offline selves – an utterly boring prospect, for sure, within a rich, expanding new media environment; but utterly necessary within a traditional media environment, whether print or broadcast. Traditional media either gets smaller and more relevant offline, or bigger and more relevant online. Bigger and more relevant online happens only one way: through distribution.

Here’s the important part (before anyone starts chortling about misfit media brands): if the super-brands don’t get into the vertical ad network business it may mean prolonged hardship and even doom for the rest of us, both buyers and sellers. The new media economy sits in suspended animation while traditional media – the only constituency with adequate reserves of trust built-up over years among advertisers and even some consumers – figures it out. All the talk of woe and irresolution and complexity that still rattles around the Internet advertising community is a direct result of waiting while traditional media works on its problems. We wait while, first, they experiment with stickiness, then personalization, then push technology, then “anonymous” third-party networks, then widgets, now social networking and video and soon, pay walls. All the while the industry waits for the “All Clear” sound. It waits until, eventually, perhaps with the rise of interactive Cable TV, the Internet’s first mover advantage is gone and the new media train leaves the station.

It is easy to avoid being left on the platform, but it means the super-brands must get on board.

Adify Media’s transparency claims are 14 years too late.

June 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

Adify Media (div. of Adify Corp) announced a few new appointments to run sales for their emerging media sales business. Glenn Fishback, late of Turn and Claria, will be the new SVP of Media Sales.

I expect it was someone in their PR department that put these words in Glenn’s mouth in the release announcing the appointments:

“In today’s competitive marketplace, Adify Media has created a unique and differentiated alternative for brand advertisers. No other media provider today can offer site by site transparency and performance visibility, brand safety, and targeting efficiency all under one roof,” said Fishback.

Oops. There is at least one other media provider that offers site-by-site transparency - with all the trimmings, notably site level reporting - and that is the Burst Network. The Burst Network has been transparent, site-by-site, since it was founded in 1995.

You can access the list of all the web sites that the Burst Network represents by searching on “Content” here:

Here’s where you can “access” the list of all the web sites Adfiy represents. Good luck.

If the Content Matters, So Does the Advertising

February 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

PaidContent reports today on the results of research by Addvantage Media for YouGov that people don’t pay much attention to advertising online on large general interest sites. Only 12% of web users pay attention to ads on large web site. However, the power of interest-based long tail publishers is much stronger.  According to the report, 73% of users say they pay attention to the ads on specialty sites. A stark contrast.

Kiwibox Teen Network Goes Live Today

December 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

Kiwibox Teen NetworkThis year, Burst Network has launched 12 vertical networks aimed at specific audiences and topics and
4 publisher-sponsored vertical networks. Our latest, the Kiwibox Teen Network is now ready for advertisers. This network is significant to us for a number of reasons, the most important of which is our partner,, one of the coolest sites for teen guys and girls. This site is a classic example of what Burst Media has always stood for, the Independent web publisher. The site is written by teens for teens, so young minds learn how to become journalists, publishers, game creators, and more. Kiwibox provides them the platform and audience. Its a great example how the Internet empowers great minds to collectively create a site.

The Kiwibox Teen Network, available only through Kiwbox and Burst Network, will provide advertisers with access to this audience and 20 other high quality independent web sites like Sidereel and Popdirt in a single aggregated media buy.

With the vertical network craze continuing to appeal to brand advertisers, we think the Kiwibox/Burst connection will be a big hit.

Networks Provide Brand Response vs. Direct Response

October 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

Ad Age recently reported on the Epsilon CMO Survey that noted a shift in thinking and ad budgets away from traditional media and into digital advertising among large brand CMOs. The study found 60 percent of firms are decreasing traditional media spending, while 66% are increasing their digital media allocation. While the actual dollars may not be a one-to-one trade off, this reallocation of budget exemplifies the strategic role digital advertising will play with large brand owners. Unlike the Internet bubble advertisers flush with VC cash, these are big brands making large budget shifts that will become a permanent part of their media spend.

Brand owners also want wide distribution for their message, which typically means less content integration and “out of box” creative, and far more reach. They also want to drive clicks, actions, and sales to complete the sales process and make the cash register ring. So when these brand owners move online they are not just jumping with their eyes closed. They are testing and learning ways to manage their brand in, for them, a new environment. They seek broad distribution on portals like AOL and Yahoo!, but increasingly see the importance of relevancy in their buys. They work with technically sophisticated ad networks to find the users they believe are most interested in their product. But they want to show that message when the user in engaged in a relevant topic where the ad provides value.

In addition to testing new media distribution options, marketers are making new use of sophisticated, relevant ad creative to move consumers through the purchase funnel. The creative they utilize for upper-funnel activities – brand awareness, favorability, and consideration – includes sponsorships, site takeovers, roadblocks, as well as a liberal use of rich media and content integration to introduce their brand to the audience.

A spectrum of advertisers, three flavors of ad networks

Getting the proper mix of distribution and ground-breaking creative is tricky business. Enter today’s ad networks, broadly defined as companies that represent multiple sites and serve the needs of advertisers. Ad networks fit into three categories: pure brand networks (also known as site rep firms), direct response networks, and networks that can fully serve brand advertisers with both branding objectives and performance goals – let’s call the last type “brand response networks.”

Comparing, and depending on the campaign using, all three requires some definition. On one end of the spectrum lie networks that offer premium content and focused audience composition at high CPMs, but limited distribution and reach. These networks focus on pure brand advertising, where the brand plays a large role in supporting the content on the site. These networks often own or control the content on the sites they work with, limiting their reach. The other extreme consists of the horizontal ad networks and their exchange partners that flood the market with low priced ad impressions and focus on driving a direct response metric. These are networks that tout the ability to reach nearly all Internet users at some point during the month, and use a mix of tools to reach an advertiser’s performance goal. However, these ad networks are more focused on massive reach than focused targeting or transparency.

Emerging in the marketplace between the brand and direct response extremes are the transparent, vertically focused ad networks that offer reach, direct relationships with publishers and very detailed reporting. The value they offer as brand response networks marries the requirement to distribute and promote the brand, deliver results, and protect the brand asset along the way. Brand response networks narrow distribution to capture the highest composition audience to an advertisers target while still providing reach. They are fully transparent and provide advertisers with a full site list specific to a campaign, site level reporting and work towards a performance goal based on the metrics set by the advertiser. Additionally, brand response networks run on the type of technology platform that provides state of the art targeting options, as well as unique, distributable creative units to get the message noticed.

What’s your brand response sensitivity?

The brand response advertiser walks a very fine line between the brand part of the brain (“I must retain the highest standards of quality no matter what cost”) and the response side of the equation (“We must meet our numbers at all costs”). Both needs of the advertiser are effectively addressed by the brand response networks if they:

  • Live by metrics. Measurement, as we all know, is the key factor in driving performance. However, advertisers must be certain they are using the correct measure or combination of measures vis-à-vis their campaigns overall objective. Effective campaign measurement can incorporate a host of ROI metrics including CPA, CPL, CTR, eCPM, brand lift, ad recall, interaction time and many others. A brand response network can provide you the metrics you need, not just the one they have for you.
  • Are fully (and I mean fully) transparent. Most networks will provide you with some form of a site list. But to be truly transparent, the network must provide a site list of the exact placements (to the URL level) for your campaign – not an abbreviated or exhaustive list of where you ad could appear. Additionally, campaign reporting must be to the site level (see previous bullet point) and show you how sites were optimized on and off the campaign. This site level reporting is critical for you to understanding where your campaigns work best and allows you to optimize future media spend.
  • Excel in customer service. While it is imperative that the first two criteria are met, it is more important that the company serves your brand needs. Getting to the root of a performance issue – be it a creative or placement issue– requires your network rep to be available at all times. If you can’t get them by phone, email, Blackberry, Facebook profile or any other means of communication, you risk your brand’s reputation while trying to track them down.

Do brand response media buys cost more than direct response? Yes, but the value an advertiser receives from the higher CPM on a brand response network offsets the additional price. They provide a closed network of high quality sites, a finely targeted audience, and the reporting and service to back up what they promise to deliver. They cost less than content integration platforms, but more than broad, blunt, blind reach networks. For advertisers balancing the demands for both branding and performance – brand response networks may be the answer. They provide the creative solutions, targeted reach, transparency and reporting that ensure success.

Voice your opinion by taking our poll:

MTVN and Burst Media’s adConductor

September 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

MTVN announced their complete vertical network strategy today, launching their demographic-centered ad networks under the Tribes umbrella (MTV Enters Crowded Ad Network Sector – ClickZ). This is an exciting contribution to growth of the vertical network business, and a validation of the work that Burst Media’s adConductor platform can provide. They are a great partner for us and for the publishers they are working with.

To learn about our AdConductor technology and services visit our web site at

Entertainment Advertising Must be Genre-Specific

September 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

Burst Entertainment Network

A challenge faced by media planners who work for the studios and production houses is finding the right advertising network for each movie release in a short amount of time. How do they buy media for each release in the time frame they are given, find relevant audiences to advertise these movies to and somehow gain exposure on the more engaging web sites on line?

Today, Burst Media introduces a solution to that problem, with the launch of the Burst Entertainment Network. At 21 million uniques and 70 million monthly impressions, it gets the word out fast to the right consumer. Great not only for films that attract a wide audience such as Superman, Batman, but also for genre-specific movie audiences like romantic comedy lovers, indie film devotees, and X-men fans. This new advertising network provides the most efficient way to reach these target audiences on sites selected based on the genre of the film. Our entertainment network can be quickly sub-divided into four specific genre-centered categories, providing a one-stop shop for advertising new releases online:

  • Action and Sci-Fi (men 18-34 years)
  • Kids and Family (women with children in household)
  • Comedy and Romance (men and women 18-34 years)
  • Independent (adults 35-54 years)

No more debate over which site or network of sites “might” work for advertising your upcoming movie and game releases. We hope you’ll agree!

Web Publisher Pricing Debate — A Tale of Two Ad Network Types

July 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

PubMatic, the new ‘meta ad server’ that sits between the publisher and the ad networks, have issued several reports that have been featured on in MediaPost about the trend in CPM pricing for small, medium and large publishers that sell their ad inventory to ad networks. I highlight that point, because they are using statistics for a very specific part of the market, namely those publishers who are selling remnant inventory in bulk and for the purposes of redistribution. Unfortunately, that market would, to me, be characterized as sites that have already pushed CPMs through the floor in recent years, namely sites that are not “brand-safe.”

Burst sees a much brighter future for publishers. Since the beginning of 2008, we have elevated the stature of our high quality vertical sites by packaging them into brand-safe networks organized by audiences such as Moms, Baby Boomers and Environmentalists. As a result, our average prices have followed suit, to the benefit of those publishers who want to share in the revenue that we can get on their behalf. We have seen prices increase over 50% since last year, and have campaigns running on these hand-selected networks well above $5 CPMs – not your average ad network. So while PubMatic points to a downward trend in prices, we are actually working with advertisers and publishers to move the price up.
The difference between Burst and the average ad network is testimony to a fracture that has begun to divide the two segments of ad networks – large blind distribution vehicles vs. targeted, transparent, high composition audiences. Although we at Burst pride ourselves on the latter, we like the prospects of both, participate in both, and see publishers benefiting from both as a result.

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