I have a gambling problem. Not the casino, sports book, or horseracing kind, but at the checkout line when making major purchases. My bad habit is not insuring the electronics I buy.
Most of us have been there: saving your money for months to purchase the big screen you’ve been eyeing for months. You drive to the store, pick out the set, and get in line. The clerk tells you the (sizable) total and without hesitation you hand over your card. Then the tricky question comes, and it usually goes something like this: “Would you like to add our comprehensive three-year protection plan for $49.99?”
Now, maybe you’re a smart consumer and recognize that the small added cost for the extra protection is worth it for major purchases. I typically take the gamble and say something like, “Nah, it’ll be fine. These things never break.”
In the campaign world, I see a similar story play out over and over again when it comes to online display (also known as “banner”) advertising. In the political version of this story, a campaign hires a digital firm that promises to deliver big numbers of impressions and clicks at low rates. What these campaigns forget to do is insure their purchase.
The reality is that display is riddled with waste, and few agencies are doing enough to avoid it. Digital is a big investment, and your campaign needs a partner that takes the necessary steps to combat waste.
Here are three ways your agency partner can reduce waste and make your display dollars go farther.
Pay attention to viewability
If I asked you what was the top story on your favorite news website’s home page today, you might be able to tell me. If I asked you what the last story on the page was, you’d probably laugh at my question.
The reason is simple: you didn’t scroll that far down the page. Most users don’t.
The problem is that all too often, the display ads at the bottom of the page load when the page does, not when a user actually views the ad. The impression is still counted even though no one actually saw it.
Your digital agency should combat this by selecting only the ad placements most likely to be seen by users. To modify an old school newspaper term, this is known as above the digital “fold.”
Understand ad fraud
Bots are alive and well. While bots can create positive opportunities for your campaign on certain platforms (like Facebook Messenger), they’re more likely to wreck your budget on display. I personally blame the Russians, and I’m only half joking.
Bots and click farms are websites that generate ad revenue by interacting with paid ads without intent – basically providing more impressions and clicks for the advertiser and increasing ad revenue for the bot or click farm owner.
The best way to combat ad fraud is for your digital agency to use an ad fraud partner like DoubleVerify, WhiteOps or IAS. Using one of these tools should be as simple as flipping a switch during setup, but that one simple step can avoid a lot of waste and amplify the impact of your digital spend.
Build site lists
In addition to fraud and viewability, display can be wasteful if your ads are continually being served on sites that have a high cost-per-action, serve to the wrong audience, or are not brand safe.
The best way to ensure your display campaign reaches its maximum potential is by using site lists to focus on sites that produce the best results.
Why don’t all digital agencies use site lists? Simple: they’re lazy and want unreliable vanity campaign metrics. That might be harsh, but in many cases it’s true. While digital platforms can optimize to some degree, stretching your campaign performance means creating and updating site lists by hand. That’s a lot of work.
In fairness, not every display campaign requires site lists. But it’s a good option to improve performance and your digital partner should be monitoring for optimizations using this method.
No one likes wasting money. Unfortunately it’s easy to do with display if your partner agency isn’t willing to go the extra mile.
In full disclosure, all three of these options will most likely increase the cost of your display campaign. But this is a fractional price to pay to protect your investment. Quality should beat quantity in most cases.
Returning to our TV example, it’s better to spend the extra fifty bucks on the protection plan than to get home and find out only half of your new big screen works.
Matt Hubbard is the VP, Digital at Cygnal, a GOP research, communication and digital firm.