Wrong-headed Thinking about Publisher Inventory

I’m amazed that a senior executive at a major ad company like The Rubicon Project would write something like this (in their Q3 update):

“Many of these platforms ultimately value all inventory equally, from the New York Times or Sports Illustrated, to a niche WordPress sports blog,” [JT] Batson [,Rubicon’s EVP of Revenue and Global Development] said. “And for certain ads, that is OK. But publishers correctly argue that a reader seeing an ad against the trusted brand of a well-known site is more valuable than a reader seeing the ad on a site they don’t fully trust.”

Referencing the “agency-backed buying platforms” which presumably encompasses all demand-side aggregators. Any company on the demand side of the display ad business (agency-backed or not) that does value all inventory equally is surely going to fail. Having a set of well-known branded sites in a campaign is certainly going to create more confidence for brand-sensitive advertisers, but that is of course one of many determinants of the value of inventory. Audience, position on page, user frequency, number of other ads on the page — these are all certainly factors in valuing ad inventory.

As I mentioned on CPMa’s blog recently, some very well-known publisher brands appear to be giving themselves liberally to anyone with an ad to show. Those in our business who have real technology and a real understanding of media know that the way we make this business work is to get past the irrational, emotional responses that “nobody cares about my brand” and bring data to the table to support our suppositions.