The strategy behind digital ad networks

February 14, 2013
Sarah Richmond-Basedow Media Strategist

A media strategist is of great value for companies who want to ensure they’re getting the most out of their ad buy. There are many layers to consider and insights to offer, particularly when it comes to digital ad networks. With research, planning, attention, and assessment of where you place your ads and what you’re doing with the data you can extract, your media strategist can help minimize ad dollar waste, and ensure your message is flexible, trackable and valuable.

A digital ad network is a company or group that sells advertisers ad space or inventory on publisher’s websites. Outlets like national news, entertainment, health, and business sites, etc.

One of the greatest benefits of using an ad network is the ability to affordably run your ads on national websites by geotargeting your ads in the markets you want. So, if I’m an insurance company in the Midwest and I want to run on national business and financial sites but just want my ads to be served up to consumers in the Midwest, an ad network is a cost effective way to do this.

Now, about those layers to consider. As I said there are many, so let’s explore.

DO … your research and know your options when it comes to digital ad networks.
Some ad networks guarantee above the fold ad placement. Some ad networks provide full transparency so you know what sites your ads are running on. Some don’t guarantee above the fold ad placement or transparency but are at a lower cost because of it.

DON’T … Rely solely on the digital ad network to track and monitor your ads regularly. That would be a little like giving the neighbor kid $50 to mow your lawn every week for a month while you’re on vacation. Will he mow your lawn? Yes, but he might let it run wild and do it all on the last day.

If the ad network offers you access to tracking and reporting, check in on your campaigns regularly to ensure that ads are running as scheduled and if certain websites are not performing, that they are being optimized out.

DO … Include Retargeting capabilities in your digital campaign.
Ever feel like an ad is following you?

It probably is. Retargeting is when a user visits a website, maybe looks at a pair of designer shoes, but doesn’t make a purchase. Later, the user goes on to other websites and starts to see ads for the designer shoe website where they had just been looking at a pair of designer shoes. Coincidence? I think not. This is all made possible with pixel tracking … blahbity blah blah … technical terminology … in a nutshell, when the user went to the designer shoe website, a pixel started to track the potential customer. And follow them. (Cue eerie music)

The ultimate benefit?

Your ad, the experience you’re pitching your audience, if done right, is making a more significant and lasting impression.

DO … Use retargeting minimum and maximum frequency caps.
How many times should a consumer see your ad before they might consider taking action? Think about the buying cycle for your product…the decision to buy a car is usually a longer process than buying a pair of shoes, so you would want to serve more ads over a longer period of time to your potential car buyer than to your shoe buyer. Think about the action you are trying to convince your target to take and put retargeting minimum and maximum frequency caps in place for your campaign and cater it to your products and services.

DON’T … Be afraid to make changes mid-stream.
That means you absolutely need to use the data from the reporting you collect. If, after a reasonable amount of time your ads aren’t performing well, take stock of the campaign. Will the customer know what you want them to do? Is the landing page they are being linked to clear and easy to navigate? Are the ads running on relevant sites?

If not, work with your strategist to adjust.

DO: Be flexible in your messaging.
If you are selling products to different types of people, create different ads with different messaging and target your different consumers where they are and in ways that will motivate them. Today, advertising, that is, the act of placing ads for a product or service, is as much about crafting an experience your audience can connect with as it is where you are placing the ads. We often talk about design with a purpose. It’s important to combine the work of a well-crafted campaign with targeted and agile placement strategy. If you’re using digital ad networks to do that, there are many layers to take advantage of to make sure it’s working for you.

Questions? Want to learn more? I’m Sarah Richmond – call or email me and we can get started on a consultation. 414-299-3973 or
Sarah Richmond is Core Creative’s media strategist.  She served as a media planner and buyer for nearly 10 years at two other Milwaukee-based marketing agencies. She has served clients in a number of industries including entertainment, higher education, athletics and health care. She has managed multi-million dollar campaigns and has developed strategies for optimizing placement regardless of budget size. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SRichMedia.


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