An inside look at what advertisers look for when selecting print and digital publisher partners.
By Kevin Rehberg, Vice President, Client Development, Alliance for Audited Media
Ad fraud dominated the headlines in 2019. As a result, advertisers are more selective about where they place their media investments. What exactly are they looking for in a media partner? We recently spoke with advertisers, media planners and publishers to gain their insights into qualities advertisers seek when vetting potential print and digital publisher partners.
Quality Over Quantity
Whether it’s print or digital media, advertisers seek platforms that will provide the greatest return on their investment. Often this means assessing whether the publisher is reaching the advertiser’s target audience. Jeanne Finegan, chief media officer at HF Media, the media arm of Heffler Claims Group, and vice president of media solutions at Prime Clerk, described the multi-step process her team developed to evaluate potential media partners.
“We have a pretty extensive vetting process which includes proof of service,” Finegan said. “We ask a lot of questions running various scenarios for timing, quality, responsiveness and transparency.”
Part of this process is to assess whether the publisher’s audience meets their expectations.
On the print side, this means demonstrating that print products are delivered to the number of people they were expected to reach. On the digital side, publishers need to show they have taken steps to deliver human audiences. Since bots are created to generate clicks and fake traffic—a major source of ad fraud—advertisers are steering their buys toward platforms that offer real audiences.
“Quality environments, accountability, and human engagement are being valued over clicks,” Finegan added. “There has been a long-established narrative in the digital ecosystem that more is better. Smart marketers will increasingly value quality over quantity.”
Trusted and Transparent Data
When developing any ad campaign, media planners prioritize and incorporate data they can trust to help make informed media buying decisions. Part of being able to provide that trusted data means involving a third party for verification.
“It’s very important to us that our vendors comply with third party audits. It’s a validation that what they’re reporting is accurate,” said Trish Louderback, analysis manager at NSA Media. “Our company has always insisted that the publications we choose are audited.”
Having a third-party audit helps publishers stand out as providing advertisers with data that can be relied upon.
“Audits give us a lot of credibility,” said John Hale, publisher of the Steubenville Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times. “It’s proof for advertisers that our numbers are accurate.”
Abe Gonzalez, circulation director for The Brownsville Herald, agreed. “AAM data is important to advertisers. That’s why it’s important for us to have an audit.”
Advertisers often request that their agencies partner exclusively with audited publications to ensure the campaign meets expectations and ad dollars are spent effectively.
“Printing and insertion costs keep rising. If the circulation numbers are inflated and our inserts aren’t reaching the homes they’re supposed to reach, that’s wasted expense,” said Matt Spahn, CEO of planitretail. “When a publication is audited, we have confidence in the numbers and know that we’re not wasting money by working with them.”
Spahn added that it’s also valuable to have verified data that’s easy to work with.
“Publications that aren’t audited often provide data in a format that isn’t very user-friendly,” he said. “AAM’s Media Intelligence Center makes it easy for us to find the data we need quickly and download it into a format that we can incorporate directly into our database. That easy access, coupled with the integrity of AAM-verified data, are the reasons why we partner with AAM.”
Ray Young, president of Retail Print Media, added, “It’s easier to work with a publication if it’s audited. It streamlines communication with a vendor, since we have a mutual standard that we agree upon.”
While Young’s agency accesses data from different sources, he has greater confidence in AAM-verified numbers. “AAM is the source of circulation data that has the most authenticity because AAM has the most rigorous approach,” he said. “It’s the top format out there and preferably the one we want our vendors to use.”
Digital Media Verification
While audits of print media are well-established, digital media audits are a newer concept that is gaining momentum. Quality digital publishers are finding that a third-party audit helps them stand out from other websites.
A website audit also helps media buyers make more informed decisions, leading to more successful campaign outcomes.
“Thanks to AAM’s digital audits, buyers will now be able to differentiate quality sites, analyze all types of traffic and be better armed to combat IVT. Buyers can clearly see the difference between publishers who are AAM audited and those who are sourcing traffic or running fraudulent sites,” Finegan said. “This type of validation creates a win on the publisher side and on the buy side.”
How can AAM work for you? Check out this short video.
The Alliance for Audited Media powers transparency and collaboration between North America’s leading media professionals. AAM is the industry’s recognized leader in cross-media verification with unparalleled expertise across all brand platforms including web, mobile, email and print. More than 4,000 publishers, advertisers, agencies and technology vendors depend on AAM’s data-driven insights, technology certification audits and information services to transact with trust. To learn how AAM brings trust and transparency to today’s media ecosystem, visit auditedmedia.com.