It’s one of the largest problems facing online publishers. Almost all (around 95 percent) of brand advertising is not on the web. The online site Brand.net is attempting to find a solution to the problem , billing itself as the first online advertising network focused exclusively on brand advertising.
It’s a big issue; smart traditional media publishers always sell audience; the numbers come later in the discussion after an advertiser decides he wants that audience. Andy Atherton, Chief Operating Officer of Brand.net, says that online ad networks found advertisers, but not that many brand advertisers. He believes it was natural that the web developed that way; the medium was new, and the only way publishers could sell was to sell clicks and eyeballs. “Look at all of this stuff that you can measure!” says Atherton. “People might have missed the boat a bit.”
Prior to Brand.net, Andy was Vice President of Global Pricing & Yield Management for Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and its display advertising. (Brand.net CEO Elizabeth Blair is also from Yahoo!) He also founded a company called Optivo, which developed price optimization software for e-commerce retailers. After M.I.T, he began work at R.B. Webber & Co, a consultancy and venture fund. Not only was it because the medium was new; it was also a creative issue; the creative that was available online was pretty basic.
In television, “Per Inquiry” mail order advertising is the lowest form, reduced to midnight on cable networks. I first encountered Per Inquiry while interviewing a sales rep for the old version of the Family Channel, when it was run by Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach. Her sole job was to fill out the odd hours of programming with various ads for stuff that had to be ordered before “midnight tomorrow.” Per Inquiry is all about selling Time-Life records; the station gets a cut of what is sold. So the Internet is essentially based on the lowest form of TV advertising. It’s great for the advertiser, who gets pretty much a free ride for the exposure.
There have been some efforts at measuring impressions, including the Atlas Media Solutions effort of Microsoft. Brand.net is a single effort to re-frame the issue, and deliver quality, scalable buys so that advertisers can not only measure their audience, but account for those who were softened up in the process.
In the end, says Atherton, you have to sell “cases of Crest.”