Mid-Market Advertisers Deserve Better Ad Tech

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Marilois Snowman, CEO and founder, Mediastruction

On TV & Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is by Marilois Snowman, CEO and founder of Mediastruction.

Advertisers from internet, automotive, retail and insurance companies take up over 30% of the $200 billion ad market. Half of that ad-market pie is funded by mid-market and long-tail advertisers that keep the global ad engine running. They are how Google, Facebook and Amazon have made their fortunes.

Yet, even though mid-market advertisers represent such a massive chunk of the marketplace, they face many constraints with few tools to answer the most basic existential questions in advertising. It’s a wonder their buying power hasn’t driven more innovation.

Limited inventory

Very often, the most visible, highest-attention, brand-safe inventory is only available to large national advertisers. Or it’s only guaranteed to large advertisers, who can afford lucrative national media deals.

Take addressable TV, for example. It is possible to buy refined, targeted, behavioral audiences with live, linear, addressable TV. You want to reach pet owners watching CNN? You need an MVPD addressable buy. However, it’s going to require a minimum spend and it’s not likely to be available in select markets. OTT & CTV aggregators can help but only to an extent.

You want to reach pet owners that stream CNN? OTT/CTV aggregators can provide that targeting, even in select geographies and with much lower minimum spends. But the downside here is that the inventory will be bundled with a bunch of other content you’ve probably never heard of. The reality is that the mid-market brand can’t architect when or where their spots will air.

Plus, many aggregators have started to command monthly minimums above $50K, which can be cost prohibitive for smaller mid-market players. When it comes to premium online display, direct publisher deals often come with geotargeting limitations, leaving mid-marketers with remnant inventory. Try buying The New York Times, Wall Street Journal or other premium digital publishers in select DMAs. It’s next to impossible.

And forget about the awareness impact of in-product placement. In-product placement deals, a strategic work-around to gaining brand exposure in non-ad-supported streaming content, is not available to mid-marketers, who have mid-market budgets and spot-market geotargets.

Lack of insight into walled gardens

Facebook, Google and Amazon are walled gardens. They’ve built sophisticated machine learning algorithms to allow for do-it-yourself campaign optimizations within their walled gardens. But there exists an informational white space of budgeting and channel allocation across the walled gardens. That cross-pollination attribution remains elusive to many mid-marketers because the tools to answer those questions are expensive and require loads of data.

True metrics just out of reach

The efficiency of audience targeting and low CPMs in digital media is good news for mid-marketers, especially smaller national brands. A digital-first plan allows for the efficiency of audience targeting. But the “reach” metric of digital-forward media plans is bad news.

I have seen Nielsen studies where a digital campaign peaks at about 8% market reach. A deeper reach solution could be devised by layering digital solutions. But measurement of combined reach among multiple digital partners remains elusive. This is a big problem for mid-size brands spending the propensity of ad budgets on digital channels.

Why is reach important? If you subscribe to the marketing science theory of “recency,” then you believe one impression at the point of need is more important than multiple impressions when the need doesn’t exist. With that in mind, reach is more relevant than ever. And tools that appropriately calculate and optimize reach across multiple digital platforms should be available to mid-market.

Obstacles to media planning

For media planners, there’s a big question mark around what media the target audience consumes, what touch points they trust, etc. This type of information is very hard to obtain at the mid-market level. There are social listening tools and AI audience insight tools that will provide some media usage, but their steep subscription costs lock out mid-market. And often the media outlets cited through usage studies are only available nationally, so the insight isn’t actionable if the brand is focused on an efficient DMA approach. What good does it do to my Atlanta media plan for pet food customers if New York Times over indexes?

A missed opportunity in the middle

It doesn’t seem likely that mid-marketer planning, research and measurement tools will tier pricing to make themselves approachable to the mid-market. But, if they did, they may find a new marketplace. Either that or mid-marketers should form an industry consortium to address their specific ad needs.

We’ve seen the success of Google, Facebook and Amazon in meeting the mid-market. It’s time to evolve other industry tools to upend the Pareto principle.

Follow Mediastruction (@Mediastruction) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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