Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What Are Impressions If Not Data?

I’ve been having an interesting discussion with the COO of one of the new, up and coming, digital ad networks.

The discussion centered on what digital publishers are actually selling. This executive believes that publishers are selling impressions.

I countered by saying that what publishers are actually selling today is data. In fact, what publishers have always sold has been data. After all, what are impressions if not data – the number of people who were exposed to an ad or commercial?

Unfortunately, we think of impressions as living, breathing things. But in reality, they’re just a number. In other words, an impression is just a piece of data.

This particular COO was talking about ways in which publishers could make more money by narrowing audience, increasing relevance, etc. All fine, in and of themselves.

My suggestion was a little different. What I suggested was that publishers could immediately start to make more money simply by thinking of themselves as data providers rather than audience providers.

I told him that this single mindchange alone would increase the number of potential buyers of that data.

Take viewer time spent as an example. It’s a completely valid and valuable data point. Today, it’s mostly given away at no additional cost when a media agency buys impressions.

But what if publishers sold viewer time spent data as a stand-alone data point to creative agencies? And what if creative agencies were partially paid according to how long they held a viewers attention in a commercial?

Then this data would have real value, wouldn’t it? To both the advertiser and the creative agency.

The response from this COO of this up and coming ad network was that brands and agencies simply don’t work that way. RFP’s don’t work that way. Media agencies simply pay based on the number of impressions, clicks or acquisitions delivered.

And he’s right. Brands and agencies don’t work that way. Yet. But as we all know, the system’s in need of change.

And here I was under the impression that it would be the new, up and coming guys, who would be the ones anxious to change it.

Silly me.

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