How Much of My Online Display Budget Should I Spend On Data?

Answers to Questions on Best Investments and More

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Publications like ESPN have powerful bonds with their audiences and are able to draw major advertisers.
Publications like ESPN have powerful bonds with their audiences and are able to draw major advertisers.

How much of my budget should I be spending on data?
The best data investments should stretch budgets, not necessarily add to them. But here's some guidance: if you're launching a broad, awareness-driving campaign, data may not be your first tactic. On the other hand, if you're trying to drive sales or purchase consideration, you should often be looking to more data-centric plans, combining both first- and third-party information where possible. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find savvy marketers that aren't spending 10%, 15%, 20% of their budgets on data-driven plans," said Jordan Bitterman, senior VP-social marketing practice director at Digitas. Expect that number to only grow going forward.

Can branded content replace some of my display-advertising investments?
Absolutely. "Brands have rabid fans, too, and lots of times they don't see content as advertising," said Tracey Scheppach, senior VP-innovations director at Vivaki. The hard part, of course, is deciding what kind of content gets your message across and connects with consumers in a way that they want to share it with friends and coworkers. Companies like Buzzfeed aim to help brands take the branded content they produce and turn it into viral, earned media. "It's become fashionable in the past six months to say that the promise of brands-as-publishers is overinflated," Mr. Bitterman said. "But I don't believe that , and Digitas doesn't believe that . We believe brands very much are publishers and have been invited to the table to sit next to customers today in a way they never have been before."

How do I avoid getting scammed by holding-company trading desks when buying large-scale audiences in display?
Tales of kickbacks and double-dipping are unfortunately still common. And no matter what you do, there's no guarantee that you're not a victim. So demand transparency. Not sure what a certain fee is for? Ask. Not sure if your agency's trading desk is the best option for your audience buy? Ask about alternatives.

Does it still make sense to buy display ads directly from a publisher?
Publishers are doing everything they can to make sure the answer is "yes." But it's getting harder and harder to make the case across the board. That said, certain publications audiences' still lure big-name advertisers, either because of the specific industry in which they work or for their demographic makeup. "True premium publishers often have powerful bonds with their audience and those connections are worth a brand's attention," Mr. Bitterman said. "It's hard to replace fantastically placed brand integration with premium content. We don't think that 's going anywhere." Some publishers are also attempting to give advertisers an alternative to the programmatic buying of lower-quality inventory through ad networks by creating private ad exchanges. On these platforms, publishers often offer advertisers more transparency into ad placement in exchange for slightly-higher CPMs.

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