What’s the Biggest Myth About Online Advertising?

Earlier this week, Digiday highlighted a post from ComScore’s Kirby Winfield listing his top myths of online advertising. It inspired us to ask other industry leaders for their top myths. Judging from the replies, it’s time to stop calling banners and clicks worthless, start questioning how new “native advertising” is, and acting like digital is going to take over from traditional media. Please add your own myths in the comments.

Ian Schafer, CEO, Deep Focus @ischafer
Online advertising is filled with more myths than Thor’s Kindle. But the one that’s captured my fancy recently is the myth of the Newfront. The TV upfronts are meant to create a competitive marketplace for brands to synchronously reach large audiences with scarce, premium inventory. Online video is delivered asynchronously, with no track record of being able to produce “hits.” Most video ad dollars are spent placing ads around content which is neither scarce nor “premium.” The online video market has grown because of its ability to remove friction from the buying process. The industry is not mature enough for friction to result in premium pricing. Close, but not yet. We’ll need bigger distribution for that. I buy the concept of the Newfront as a content showcase. But not a competitive marketplace. For now, when there are “premium dollars” spent on online video, they will flow into real innovation where quality content (creators), reach (networks), and deep engagement (platforms) combine. That will scarcely happen, but when it does, it will have the potential to change the way advertisers look at their TV and online buys.

Randy Kilgore, chief revenue officer, Tremor Video
There are those who feel that all digital companies share an agenda to “change the world.” We think those companies are the extremists. We’ve all seen the cycle: Newco launches a consumer company and eschews advertising, then realizes consumers won’t pay to use their service. So the company decides, “We’ll do advertising but in our own way that’s never been done before.” This has been cleverly called “native advertising.” Throughout history, revolution is a convenient descriptor, but most change comes from evolutions. The myth is that those outside of digital assume that we think we are smarter than everyone else and we’ve figured out a radically better way to do things. The reality is that most of us are just trying to help make things better.

Jonathan Mendez, founder, Yieldbot @jonathanmendez
Single biggest myth is that the value of the click is dying. The Web is all about traffic. Every dollar made on the Web is click arbitraged. Traffic in. Traffic out. How much did you make in the middle? Google pays $10 billion a year for traffic. Clicks are also the primary source of data collection on the Web (that ironically drives audience buying). And if you think clicks don’t matter to brands, then why the explosion of branded content? How will people get there? They will click. Clicks have and will always be the primary measure of attention in digital.

Troy Young, president, Say Media @troyyoung
The biggest myth is this: The problem is the banner. The problem is not the banner. It’s two other things. It’s the relationship between the banner and the rest of the content on the page. Faced with low yields and CPM pricing, publishers have littered pages with banners that no one sees. Media is about time. Step one: Find a better balance between edit and advertising. Clean up the page. Keep advertiser content in view longer. The second is what goes inside the banner.Take that bigger, visible space and fill it with meat. Advertisers need to think less about blasting out a USP and more about content with POV. Let’s do both of these and bust that myth.

Jack Myers, independent media economist @jackmyerscom 
Myth: Legacy media need to invest millions to build a digital infrastructure and business.
Digital media are seeking to dismantle legacy media businesses and business models. Reality: Investments in building the infrastructure required for digital capabilities and marketing today are distinctly different from the digital investments required even a decade ago, and significantly different from the investments required to build broadcast and cable businesses. Billions of dollars have been invested by venture capitalists in building out the infrastructure required for digital conversion. Unlike any technological revolution that has come before, the Internet Revolution is being funded through venture capital and is focused on supporting — not dismantling — traditional corporations and their assets. Established companies, rather than needing to take the risk of building digital assets from scratch, now have access to thousands of small companies that are ready, willing and able to make infrastructure investments for them. Digital bridges, tunnels and roads are built. Advanced digital tools and capabilities have been imagined, created and developed, mostly through venture investment, and are available for low-cost installation and implementation There are thousands of VC-funded companies that have fully developed Internet-based capabilities and tools available to traditional companies for the asking. It’s now an issue of whether corporate organizations can manage their own legacy hierarchies and the natural resistance of an inbred corporate culture, and if they will act to embrace and adopt digital conversion and upgrades.
* excerpted from Myers’ forthcoming book, “Hooked Up: A New Generation’s Surprising Tek on Sex, Politics and Saving the World.”

Darren Herman, chief digital media officer, The Media Kitchen, @dherman76
I’d have to say that the biggest myth in online advertising is that display units do not work. After serving billions of ads for Media Kitchen clients each year, we know that audience + context + location will generally allow display ads to perform well. Marry that with excellent creative execution and you have a good probability that a campaign will perform. Display ads take heat when they are lousy and add no value; thus, they will perform terribly.


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