Time was when b-to-b media buyers had it easy: Choose the top three or so trade magazines, select a 12-time schedule with each and sit back knowing that 90% of the advertiser's prospective customers had been reached.
Today's media buyers have to navigate a bewildering thicket of obscure Web sites, webinars, blogs, forums, e-newsletters, RSS feeds and instant messages, a dazzling diversity of potential advertising partners visited regularly by b-to-b customers.
“The b-to-b space is really the best example of very narrowly defined niche outlets, each served by many publications and media vehicles,” said Pete Gombert, CEO of Balihoo Inc., a media planning technology company. “But the agencies and marketing departments aren't taking advantage of them because they can't. It's too fragmented. Instead, everyone falls back on the big portals.”
Balihoo offers media planning automation for marketers, agencies and publishers that identifies these myriad properties for their contextually complementary content, so informed buying decisions among them can be made.
“We certainly have run ads for our clients on some of the larger sites, but using our technology we sometimes end up on a few very obscure blogs that have turned out to be, far and away, the best-performing across any of our campaigns,” Gombert said.
Another solution to media fragmentation is to use analysis tools devoted to certain industry niches. Ad agency Moxie Interactive handles the b-to-b advertising campaign of Verizon Wireless. Moxie uses IT media network NetShelter Technology Media, whose automation identifies often-obscure technology properties in which to advertise.
“There are sites that would be a lot harder to purchase on our own,” said Josh Miller, Moxie senior media partner, who oversees Verizon's b-to-b campaign. “And many are small and hard to work with directly. NetShelter Technology Media helps us aggregate key categories of sites to streamline our buying process.”
NetShelter Technology Media's own research illustrates how automation may be the only way to reach an intensely fragmented audience.
“In our studies with comScore [a company that tracks Internet data to study online behavior], more than 65% of the tech audience is fragmented across 1,000 to 5,000 high-targeted and "niched' sites,” said Peyman Nilforoush, co-founder and CEO of NetShelter Technology Media. The reason, he said, is that IT buyers are skilled at Internet search to source their purchases, and usually go to specific forums, blogs and rating pages.
While a niche network such as NetShelter Technology Media may improve the chances of tech companies reaching their audiences, other industries may want to use a form of text analysis to identify the value within their own niche of obscure properties. One company that offers this technology is ContextWeb.
“Fragmentation may seem like a negative for media buyers, but it actually has value in its excellent targeting,” said Context-Web CEO Anand Subramanian. He added that aggregating numerous small sites into well-researched media buys brings plenty of scale along with the niche marketing.
The new array of tools aimed at solving media fragmentation can help marketers make their own media buys or work with their agencies. It's also useful to agencies alone.
“An agency must look at everything about audience delivery—whether we're reaching our target markets, the scale, the efficiency of properties and ROI—for specific clients,” said Colleen Whitney, managing partner and strategic planning director with agency MindShare, which uses Balihoo to better understand local demographics and media choices.
“It's allowing us to collect audience pricing information combined with information about what drives sales and pull it all into one place,” Whitney said.