Could this be the year of the vertical ad network? With the struggling economy leaving many, including one of my favorites, to circle the wagons and batten the hatches, we’re increasingly discovering that large “traditional” ad networks are doing as well as Yahoo and AOL at effectively monetizing their inventory. That is to say, the one thing the portals still have going for them is the monumental amounts of traffic that enable them to maintain a somewhat healthy businesses on remnant CPMs because they just can’t move the inventory. Port that model over to the major ad networks and one has to ask how they can maintain a network publishers, satisfied with making less than is possible through Google Adsense. The answer is, they can’t, and that isn’t good news for you the advertiser; or is it?
From the ashes, rise vertical ad networks which, though they’ve been around for years, really seem to be garnering attention and, arguably, will excel in 2009. Simply, Vertical Ad Networks are vendors through which you can advertise exclusively to a specific target (say, travel or autos) by way of a network of contextually relevant websites or publishers. On behalf of the publishers, vertical ad networks hold the promise of higher CPMs; at rates though that effectively perform for advertisers, bringing together targeted publishers with advertising that works as never before possible. Ok…. I can’t say that last part with a straight face – truth be told, I find it amusing that the big networks and portals actual work like vertical ad networks; that is, if you want to buy just music on Yahoo or technology with Tribal Fusion, you can. For whatever reason, be it a Larry, Curly, and Moe organization or a lack of understanding on the part of the advertisers, they seem to struggle on both sides of the equation creating opportunity for the vertical players.
So who are the vertical ad networks? If you are doing any display advertising for the holiday season or beyond, I encourage you to take a serious look at this list.
- Travel – Travel Ad Network: Perhaps one of the best known connecting advertisers such as Hilton and JetBlue with Rand McNally and Maps.com
- Autos – Jumpstart Automotive Media: Helping the challenging autos vertical reach Vehix.com and NADA
- Health – Is littered with networks (no offense guys, you are) e-healthcaresolutions, Medbanner, HealthCentral Network, Good Health Advertising, and Healthcare.com’s Brokers Web
- Local – Look to the tremendous reach of MediaSpan or the impressive Placecast for ‘hyperlocal’ targeting
- Local service providers – huh? Think Dentists, Lawyers, and Chiropractors – visit ExpertHub
- Sports – Fantasy or Reality? Turn to Fantasy Sports Ad Network or Action Sports Ad Network in a vertical so lucrative that CBS is starting its own
- Women (and apparently Men) – Successful woman’s ad network Glam has just announced Brash for men
- Pets – It’s Advertising for the dogs (sorry, that’s my own tag line – I couldn’t resist) with PetLinkeXchange
- Technology – NetShelter Branded Network reaches geeks, literally
One of the best ways to reach c-level executives and business professionals? Try a mobile network which reaches those most likely to be tapping away on their blackberry. If mobile doesn’t work for you, even Forbes has their Forbes Audience Network.
The last that I think worth sharing with you, that which I find most impressive, is Martini Media Network. The first to reach an affluent vertical and certainly, an ad network from which I expect to be on the receiving end of advertising some day. Martini Media Network is not about the typical affluent demographic we strive so hard to reach, assuming those with money are more likely to buy; I’m talking about the wealthy. MMN, and its sister property MartiniLife, best serve advertisers such as Rolex, Gucci, Montblanc, Bayliner, and Flexjet (or even LearJet, a brand so exclusive it doesn’t even come up on an search for something obvious like “private jets”).
Perhaps most interesting, vertical ad networks might be best positioned to weather the downturn in our economy with advertisers turning to the most targeted use of their dollar to maintain sales amongst those most likely to convert. One indicator of vertical ad network success? Or, more importantly, one indicator that they work? At least someone is hiring 🙂