The Trend Few Are Discussing: Brands As Media Companies

Large Consumer Manufacturers Are Posing Their Sites to Power Display Ads of Third-Party Advertisers

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Few have commented publicly on an exciting trend in digital advertising: Brands as media companies.

Large consumer brands are repackaging their online audiences and their onsite browsing behavior to power third-party advertisers' display ads. This trend gained huge momentum among retailers when Amazon quietly entered the category, creating its own advertising network.

Some of the biggest brands are transforming their assets into these new advertising opportunities, and, in many cases, ad revenue.

The conversation in the marketplace has centered on the opportunities for retailers. And that makes sense: With a large online presences, retailers sell a diverse of set of products to a broad set of consumers, who, in turn, appeal to a broad set of online advertisers. However, in the new world of audience buying, manufacturers are waking up to an equally exciting opportunity.

Only a few manufacturers have real scale online. So the opportunity to make revenue through an advertising channel is relatively small. However, there is a significant demand for behavioral targeting opportunities powered by browsing behavior on manufacturer sites.

The most obvious and immediate interest comes from endemic advertisers. These are companies with an existing symbiotic business relationship with the manufacturer, that is , the retailers.

The website of a well-known manufacturer of wireless routers draws about two million consumer visits every month to research such routers. According to a 2010 Forrester study, about half of the people who visit a manufacturer's website intend to purchase the product within 30 days. So roughly a million of the wireless-router site visitors will buy that product or a similar one within 30 days. Retailers that sell this manufacturer's product, online or in-store, are understandably interested in putting an ad for that product in front of this audience wherever they are on the web, to try to capture that potential purchase.

For the manufacturer, enabling retailers to target their online audience has an obvious benefit. As the retailer is likely to target the consumer with a co-branded ad, the manufacturer gets free exposure in an ad, paid for by the retailer, that 's designed to drive a sale of the manufacturer's product on that retailers' site.

But even without this type of symbiosis, non-endemic advertisers are showing interest in targeting media with manufacturer data. Here's where it gets really cool. All brands have a distinct "personality." These personalities are designed to appeal to a specific type of consumer -- his or her sense of style, interests and even values.

How often do advertisers describe their target consumers by listing other brands that their favored consumer owns? For example, "Our consumer is a Mac user," or "drives a BMW."

Targeting consumers of specific manufacturer brands provides benefit well beyond just reaching someone in-market for a product. As advertiser, you are getting access to a specific consumer profile.

Imagine a world where brands launch online programs that target the audiences of other non-competitive brands that share similar personalities.

That world is already being born.

Jay Habegger is CEO of OwnerIQ.
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