Both direct response and brand-focused advertisers on display are concerned about the performance as well as the type of publishers their ads are appearing on. Whether their ultimate goal is some type of lead/revenue metric or an engagement metric like increased traffic or time on site, the “quality” of the publisher plays a significant role in achieving those targets.

Even when conducting a retargeting campaign where the advertiser is serving ads to those that previously engaged with their site but may not have completed the advertiser’s intended action (i.e. lead form or sale), the type of publisher and ultimately domain itself is still key to success.

Eg. A credit card advertiser retargeting users is likely to show a higher conversion when the retargeted audience is on a site like Yahoo! Finance or Bankrate than when they are on You Tube. This ultimately should play a role in the bidding level for that given impression.

Each publisher domain of course has its own unique characteristics as it relates to CPM, CTR and overall ROI performance for advertisers. This can further vary between the vertical of the advertiser on the publisher domain, the nature of the messaging and other components like seasonality and time of day.

There are some broad level insights we wanted to show across the EF Advertiser set to help people gauge the performance of their campaigns as well the opportunity for marketing spend in display to achieve business goals.

In Figure 1, we classified the various publishers into 8 category types and show a CPM Index for December 2010. These are the top publisher domains by impression and comprise over 80% of the traffic across the advertiser set.

Figure 1: EF US Client Publisher Type CPMs

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In Figure 2, here is an overall summary of December 2010 data for the 8 different types including the proportion of domains within that category (i.e. Type %) as well as impression share of that category relative to total impressions in this period.

Figure 2: EF US Client Publisher Type Summary – December 2010

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One of the more obvious points of note is how much traffic comes from video sites, especially relative to the low amount of publisher domains (4%) within that category. Video publisher CPMs are also extremely expensive relative to the other categories (61% more expensive than the 2nd most expensive publisher category which was Shopping sites).

It should be noted that the Efficient Frontier platform for any display campaign, allocates bids agnostically to meet the advertiser’s ROI target within given business parameters such as a monthly budget. Therefore, the reason why video inventory may also be that much more expensive that other categories is due to its relative performance for EF advertisers and the platform pushing spend to that type of publisher.

Looking at CPMs for categories over time will be interesting especially with those where seasonality has the potential to play a large part in inventory cost. December is clearly a strong month for retail and thus could be the reason why that was among the most expensive inventory overall. Interestingly, only 3% of the Impressions were on shopping sites. This may be due to the fact that  most publishers with retail content not wanting to send users away from their domain so they can sell to them and thus there was less inventory available on those types of sites.

It was also interesting to see a lot of commercial sites make up the top publishers in December. These were publisher sites which were business corporate sites advertising the company product or service offering. It may be a case of these sites wanting to monetize some of the traffic to their sites (i.e. corporate blog pages) beyond their core offering. The fact that the CTR was the highest for the commercial category may vindicate their decision to go down this route.

There are of course other factors such as (ad size), frequency capping, above the fold, page context, etc. which also determines inventory cost, quality and ultimately performance. With this inventory also being increasingly available for bidding in real-time, it is important that a robust platform is employed to manage an advertiser’s campaign to maximize performance.

Chris Jacob

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