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mission (not) accomplishedIs  90 percent of your online ad campaign invisible to your target audience? Nonsense.

Online advertising is all about razor-sharp targeting. Responsible advertisers and agencies stake their reputations and livliehoods on their ability to send the right message to the right person at the right time.

Except when they don't.

A shattering report in ClickZ looks at just a few recent scenarios of campaigns torpedoed by the overworked, over-stressed worker bees in ad ops. And the people on the buy side who ignore them.

To wit:

  • One large advertiser learned 90 percent of its campaign was appearing outside the United States. The target audience was U.S. women 18-49.
  • A highly regional mattress campaign appeared all over the country, as well as in foreign climes, even though the product could only be shipped within a small, specific geo-targeted zone.
  • An ad network discovered the tags on an ad campaign were erroneous. They notified the agency, but after three days with no response, took the initiative and fixed the tags themselves.

According to ComScore research, up to 80 percent of large online ad camapigns more or less routinely fail, largely due to impressions that go wildly astray.

There's no shortage of finger pointing around this little-discussed issue, and an almost willful tendancy to don blinders at this unglamorous but critical phase of online advertising.

Online advertising is really, really complicated. Yes, it's tehnology-based, but not all technology is set-it-and-forget-it.  We talk about optimizing campaigns on-the-fly, but apparently can't even get them set up to perfom at minimally acceptable standards the first time. Beleagured ad ops staff are operating in "fire-drill mode," a practice that's dobutless only increasing as staffing levels are cut and those employees who are left at advertising companies struggle to plug the gaps left by departed coworkers.

Work is farmed out further and further downstream. It's not just agencies who aren't responding to ad networks, but ad networks who subcontract bits and pieces of campaigns to other companies in the space. This creates a situation in which no one, really, has a 360 view of what's actually happening to what components of a campaign.

And all this circles back again to technology. There may be over 300 ad networks, but there's no unified solution -- yet -- to track everything from insertion order to creative to coding to billing (though some trade organizations are working on establishing standards in these areas).

So it looks as if, for the short term at least, it's up to the advertiser to make certain what's supposed to happen, does. And that may mean calling in third-party monitoring services to oversee and track campaigns.

All this can hep make online camapigns more effective. But it's not going to make them cheaper.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 3 March, 2009 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

Follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Comments (2)

Paul Cook

Paul Cook, Director at NCC Web Performance

Talk to anyone who works in display and they have a look of fear about them when you talk about tags. The industry desperately needs  standards and better automation. Currently, each ad server works differently and networks go out of their way to hide where ads are placed making it pretty hard to track whether ads are running when and where they should be. Another classic fail - serving out all the impressiosn for the campaign between 12am and 1am European time so completely the wrong day GMT!

over 7 years ago

petter warnsberg

petter warnsberg, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media at The University of Winchester

A problem for many advertising agencies that does online marketing seem to be that the media has already been bought, online as well as offline, when they get involved.

To get Digital right I strongly think clients need to let the concepts and creative happen before the online media space i bought. Then the advertising agencies get more ownership as well.

When I ask around nobody seems to have a good reason as to why that is not the case today?

over 7 years ago

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