Last month, Brand.net released a software package called Media Futures Platform on Demand, which gives its customers direct access to its key technology. Not only can brands purchase upfront campaigns with a few clicks, but they can also use the price predictions to gain market intelligence that helps them negotiate with other ad vendors. That’s welcome because the near-infinite supply of online advertising inventory upends traditional supply and demand, says Carl Fremont, global media director for Digitas, which partnered with Brand.net on the product. “This makes it possible for our clients–the brands–to rely on more than just the subjective opinion of different publishers on pricing,” he says.
In addition to being able to plan further ahead, brands are assured of well-placed ads, because the firm uses space only on sites that ComScore rates among the top 50 in subject channels such as entertainment, news, or health and beauty. Companies are also assured that their ad won’t appear alongside porn or other objectionable content. Filtering technology scans every page every few minutes; if so much as a ribald user comment appears, the ads are quickly replaced by a public-service announcement. “This is tremendously important to these brands, some of whom were just staying away from online,” says Atherton, the COO. “It makes online media as trustworthy as network TV, where you know there isn’t anything nasty because of the FCC.”
Brand.net has been able to attract eight of the top 10 packaged-goods brands and three of the five largest big-box retailers. It’s had additional help from another quarter that recalls the old TV business model: research from the A. C. Nielsen Company. In this case, the research is based on a panel of 75,000 households whose members agree to scan all the products they purchase and have their Web use monitored. Atherton cites eight studies demonstrating that advertising the Brand.net way yields an average 300 percent return on money invested. “Nielsen’s long-term average over more than 200 similar studies is around half that,” he says.
The big question is whether such evidence will correct a striking anomaly in the marketing world: many consumers are now spending most of their media time in the digital realm, but large brands are typically spending less than 5 percent of their ad budgets there. Blair and Atherton are betting that those budgets will have to move to where the action is.