Should You Consider a Direct Sales Approach?

Read time: 6 minutes

There are plenty of options out there when deciding how to sell your ad inventory, and the ease of programmatic advertising has made the process that much easier. The picture isn’t all black and white though. In the pursuit of maximizing the value of your inventory, a direct sales strategy is still a solid solution to increased ad revenue.

Programmatic advertising has transformed the online advertising industry, no question. The ability to source and fill ad inventory in fractions of seconds has revolutionized how ads are placed on publishers’ sites, and opened the door to unprecedented targeting capabilities.

While these new efficiencies opened the door to further opportunities, there are challenges that publishers should take into account.

Programmatic isn’t always the best solution

Essentially, programmatic advertising is all about machines trading with machines. Advertisers and publishers establish their trading preferences and their machine agents carry out their wishes with remarkable efficiency.

Despite their benefits, the open, automated trading systems that underpin programmatic advertising are susceptible to ad fraud.

Bots represent one of the more prevalent sources of ad fraud and the cost is staggering. A recent example was Methbot that reportedly cost advertisers between $3 million and $5 million in video ad revenue per day, when it was active.

The ANA and White Ops estimated that ad fraud cost the industry almost $7 billion in 2016, alone. A substantial portion of that cost is the result of vast armies of sophisticated bots clicking on ads.

Two factors contributing towards a decline in CPMs are the increase of ad inventory and an exploit known as “spoofing“: simulated, yet bogus, ad inventory that ad buyers are tricked into buying.

While ad fraud has had an impact on the industry, initiatives to combat it are slowly turning the tide. For more insights into the state of ad fraud, dive into AdProfs’ “The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Ad Fraud”.

Why consider direct sales?

Increasingly a compelling alternative to programmatic advertising, direct ad sales offer a number of benefits that translate into better quality traffic as well as opportunities for higher revenue. Here are some of the benefits for you as a publisher:

Benefit #1: Choose more relevant advertisers

One of the main benefits of direct ad sales is that publishers can be far more selective about which advertisers to partner with based on their relevance to your audience. Consumers are more likely to engage with relevant ads because they enhance the user experience of a site.

In turn, advertisers will regard your site visitors as higher quality traffic, worthy of increased ad spend leading to higher CTRs and more sustainable ad revenue for your site.

Benefit #2: Guaranteed placements for advertisers

Advertisers are not always guaranteed the opportunity to place ads on premium ad inventory through programmatic sales channels. Some publishers don’t even offer premium ad inventory through programmatic sales.

When you sell ad inventory directly, you can offer your better performing ad inventory to advertisers. In turn, they will realize the benefits of this added value through higher quality engagement from your site visitors.

Benefit #3: Creative freedom for more engaging ads

Because you are selling premium ad inventory directly to advertisers, you have the flexibility to tailor that inventory to better suit advertisers’ requirements. This means advertisers aren’t necessarily constrained by standardized ad dimensions.

If you recognize a unique opportunity with a dynamic brand, you may well afford them the option of placing different ad types and sizes. Again, this may well lead to more engaging ads that offer your audience a more captivating experience.

Tips to getting started with direct sales:

1. Prepare a media kit

One of the first things you should do is prepare a media kit that clearly demonstrates your value to advertisers. Some of the most effective direct sales media kits convey your key audience demographics, site engagement, how well your ad inventory performs, and other important metrics in an accessible, visual format.

The idea is to make the decision easy for advertisers by showing them who your audience is, what works well on your site, and where advertisers’ ROI is.

2. Know your audience

To sell your ad inventory effectively, you need to understand the value you offer brands. Not every advertiser is a good fit for your audience so focus on the brands that have something unique to offer them. Remember that relevance is critical for higher audience engagement.

3. Source the right advertisers

Direct sales means connecting with advertisers directly and selling your valuable ad inventory to them.

Research the advertisers who would be most relevant to your audience. If you don’t have a clear idea who those advertisers are, look at your competitors’ sites, and even which ads are being served through Google AdSense on your site.

4. Reach out with confidence

Once you know which brands to target, you need to investigate who the decision makers are. There are a few options available to you that include LinkedIn, SellerCrowd and paid resources such as Ad Data Express.

Once you have identified the decision makers who you need to connect with, pitch them with confidence. Understand which metrics matter the most to them, and don’t be afraid to brag about the value your site offers the brand.

You need to make it worth their while to deal with you directly rather than spend their ad budget on programmatic options. If your audience is engaged and the advertising is likely to be relevant, brands can expect higher CTRs and a far better ROAS than they may expect from purely programmatic alternatives.

5. Use the best technology to manage your campaigns

Once you have brands onboard, use best-in-class technology to manage your direct sales ad campaigns effectively. The best solutions offer publishers a range of targeting and scheduling options so they can deliver the kinds of campaigns that advertisers require.

For example, AdButler has powerful audience targeting options include specific geos, platforms, and keywords. It is the perfect platform to take full advantage of the benefits of direct ad sales by accurately targeting the right audience segments through strategically placed ads.

Pacing is also really important. AdButler’s Smooth Delivery feature ensures that a campaign will be displayed evenly, throughout its duration, instead of exhausting all of its designated impressions as soon as it goes live. This advanced functionality extends to programmatic ad campaigns which AdButler is equally adept at managing effectively.

These sorts of features often generate more value and enable publishers to charge a premium for their ad inventory.

The bottom line: higher quality traffic and increased revenue

Direct ad sales offer publishers and advertisers a confidence that abuses of programmatic advertising by fraudsters, and the like, have eroded. When handled effectively, direct ad sales offer higher quality traffic and a better ROI to publishers and advertisers, alike.

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