Premium Ads: Bigger Isn't Necessarily Better

Six Factors to Consider When Buying Premium Ads

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It's easy to fall prey to the lure of so-called "premium" advertising. Fancy awards are given out in the south of France every year commemorating the largesse and beauty of big, flashy ads. Brands looking to increase awareness and brand lift often think that bigger is better. Regrettably, this is rarely the case, especially when it comes to advertising.

With traffic sources increasingly uncertain, paying a higher CPM for large-format advertising hasn't translated into guaranteed human audience or effectiveness for modern marketers. While ad size was once considered a leading determinant of campaign success, the data tell a different story: Larger ads are more likely to be avoided or flat-out ignored, significantly decreasing the likelihood that consumers will pay attention, let alone remember the message.

What's more, larger ad units should deliver enhanced viewability, but mostly they don't -- bots eat up as much as 60% of the impression load that advertisers spend so much of their budgets on every year, wreaking havoc on effectiveness metrics and creating lasting inefficiencies. To add insult to injury, big ads that are, in fact, seen by real living, breathing people typically fail to achieve cognition.

So what does this mean for brand marketers and their agencies? Bigger isn't necessarily better! Updating standards for what marketers are willing to pay a premium for will ensure more effective ads and a more efficient ad spend. These practical measures may not win awards, but they will win customers and achieve ROI.

Before considering ad size, the following six factors should be prioritized for any premium buy:

1. Human audience: Testing for humanity should be job No. 1, and pricing should be based on impressions seen by real people, excluding any bot traffic.

2. Cognition: Proper engagement is critical to campaign effectiveness. If consumers can't remember the ad message, marketers are gambling instead of investing in marketing.

3. Targeting: Data targeting that ensures the right in-market shoppers are seeing the ads has become table stakes.

4. Viewability: The value of being at the top of a popular website has not been lost entirely, but ad blocking and indifference waste ad budgets. The industry standard for viewability is pretty low, so high-quality agencies have made moves to ensure higher-quality placements.

5. Immersion: To beat back apathy, ads must deliver a high-quality user experience that fits in naturally with the path the user is already on. Good native ads should be seamlessly integrated.

6. Brand safety: Advertisers must be increasingly aware of sites with controversial content and tag their ads in an effort to avoid any negative adjacencies.

As trends go, we've seen more demand placed on effective inventory recently, at the expense of big, beautiful ads. Measured cognition has resulted in better conversion rates, and more publishers are adopting smart native advertising strategies. The time to be impressed by pixel counts is drawing to a close. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder, but CMOs know that there is nothing prettier than hitting their numbers.

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