Tag: adotas

Time for Self-serve Ad Platforms to Circle the Wagons?

Today ADOTAS.com saw fit to let me weigh in on the security and liability implications of Google’s apparent $500 million settlement with the Justice Department.

I doubt the self-serve ad world is going to come crashing down under pressure from government lawsuits, but it should give everyone a reason to ponder the implications of taking money from sleazy advertisers. With money at risk, self-serve ad platforms, and the online advertising world in general, may be a bit more judicious in choosing their clients and passing on the shady ones.

I think overall, a purging of scammy advertisers would be good for online advertising. It would raise the overall image that online advertising has. Despite some people’s privacy concerns, online advertising still has a tremendous amount of untapped potential to efficiently target the right ads and offers to the right people at the right time in the right place, and so on and so forth (as opposed to television, which gushes a never-ending stream of irrelevant, tacky ads no matter what your individual buying habits are).

With a lower proportion of shady ads, you might also see people click on ads more often. Any market economist will tell you, there’s nothing like trust to grease the wheels of commerce, and a lack of trust to bring everything to a screeching halt. If retail banking were like the internet, you could never be very sure whether a bank branch was just a phony facade trying to sell you counterfeit Certificates of Deposit. But it’s not. Why? Because of strict government regulation and the threat of punishment if banks engage in criminal behavior.

I’m indifferent to the particular case against Google…I have no idea whether Google did anything wrong. But if government oversight makes it easier for my company to make a legitimate buck on the web, then I’m all for it.

Anyway, go and read the column here.

The Sad State of Self-serve Advertising

I had a new editorial published today on Adotas.com. It’s a somewhat sarcastic look at the limited self-serve options that are available to small businesses if they want to break out of little Google text ads and start using banner ads that actually show their products in living color.

It was a struggle keeping the editorial down to about 900 words, so I’ll elaborate a bit further.

In the article, I suggest a few reasons that it’s challenging to offer self-serve banner advertising to SMBs:

  1. They have low budgets, which reduces the amount of potential profit for ad networks, publishers, and everyone else in the ad stack.
  2. It’s hard for SMBs to create display ads (that’s where Canned Banners comes in).
  3. Flash ads are often problematic, so it’s near impossible for ad networks to deal with bugs from thousands upon thousands of SMB banner ads.

Here are some other reasons (related to the three above) that I think there isn’t more going on in the realm of SMB self-serve advertising:

  • Venture/angel funding—A large portion of ad networks and solution providers are venture-backed. This implies that their investors will want them to follow a business model that will earn a sufficient return on invested capital. Generating such returns is tough in the high-volume / low-margin SMB market, so these venture-backed firms tend to chase the big money: agencies, brand advertisers, and such. Does this mean that you can’t make a profit in the SMB world? Of course not. Think of the untold billions that Google has raked in from mom-and-pops running text-based search campaigns. But until the “big money” dries up, don’t expect too many venture-backed firms to start chasing after the little guy’s wallet.
  • An inefficient market for ad inventory—Why is it that anyone with a few dollars in the bank can go online and within a few minutes buy 0.22 shares of Google stock? That’s because the market for buying and selling stocks is highly efficient and liquid. Trades are automated, prices are publicly available and updated in real time, and deals happen in fractions of a second. This is not true of the market for banner ad space. If you want your ads to be seen by the right people in the right places at the right times, don’t be surprised if you end up having to run a dozen separate campaigns on different platforms. More and more ad inventory is being bought and sold in spot markets, but a lot of it is still bought and sold very inefficiently, where you have to fill out sales inquiry forms, pick up the phone and talk to someone, or meet minimum budget requirements. And the inventory that’s bought and sold on spot markets isn’t necessarily accessible to SMBs. And what is accessible may be remnant inventory or other low-quality crap.
  • The ad industry is too tech-happy—There seems to be a fairly dominant segment in the industry that thinks that math, technology, and data will finally “solve” advertising once and for all (Why does it work? How does it work? How can I get people interested in my products? Such questions have been pondered for eons…). Naturally math, data, and technology are a huge piece of online advertising innovation, but this over-emphasis strikes me as quixotic and naïve…sort of a search for the “Philosopher’s Stone” of online advertising that will enable those who unlock it to direct the wills of powerless consumers. What does this have to do with SMBs? Well, in order to develop effective, usable solutions for SMBs, you have to think like them. And SMBs don’t give a rat’s ass about “audience buying,” “data mining,” or “creative optimization.” SMBs just want something that’s easy, affordable, and effective. Whether it’s achieved with supercomputers or windshield flyers doesn’t really matter. But until the online ad industry starts talking to SMBs in a language they understand, banner advertising is going to remain an out-of-reach, complex-seeming ad strategy, which it isn’t.


End o’ beta featured on Adotas.com

January 18, 2011—Canned Banners Cuts Out The Display Middle Men

“Today, a young startup named Canned Banners left beta. They launched in January of 2010 and provide a fast and easy online display ad creation tool for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs).” visit Adotas.com to read more

Banner ad sharing featured on Adotas.com

September 15, 2010—Free to Share Your Canned Banners

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words does that make a Flash-based banner ad worth? And is it enough to convince a client to dive in into a mound of impressions?” visit Adotas.com to read more

Passing the Creative Baton to Clients

Had another column published on adotas.com yesterday. This one’s kind of aspirational, mostly food for thought. Since agency staff expend so much time and energy on that last bit of the creative process (the bit where the client wastes everyone’s time making lots of small creative changes that will have NO measurable impact on campaign effectiveness), wouldn’t it be great if some of that tedious hand-holding could be offloaded onto software? I think everyone would be happier. Clients would get their stuff faster and agency people would have more time to focus on adding real value.

This kind of efficiency is what Canned Banners offers, albeit on a smaller scale. We provide high-quality creative ideas in the form of banner ad templates and then we let our customers apply the finishing touches with their own text, images, and logo. We also add another creative spark with our “wildcard” options that are different for every banner.

Anyhoo, this is the column:

June 30, 2010—Passing the Creative Baton to Clients
“If you’re on the agency side, it’s not your imagination; client attention spans really have shrunk to such minuscule proportions that they can now be measured only by subatomic particle research equipment.” visit adotas.com to read more

Custom Display Creative: The Need for Speed

Happy Cinco de Mayo to me! I had a feature published on adotas.com today. In it, I make two key arguments with regard to unlocking the “long tail” (i.e., the millions upon millions of small businesses in the US and abroad) in the display ad* market.

Click below to read the full feature, but here are my basic arguments:

  1. In order to serve legions of small business advertisers, the display ad industry needs to address the problem of how to make high-quality banner ads quickly and cheaply.
  2. There are many potential solutions but, for now, a system like Canned Banners that offers easy-to-customize templates is the best answer to that problem.

May 5, 2010—Custom Display Creative: The Need for Speed
“In the carnival of digital marketing, there are some cool new rides in Display Ad Land. Thanks to powerful developments like retargeting and real-time bidding, the once-lowly banner ad has enjoyed a resurgence in status.” visit Adotas.com to read more.

* “Display ad” is simply a broader term that includes banner ads like the ones Canned Banners makes. Here’s Wikipedia’s definiton.