You Can Keep Your Premium Guaranteed Impressions. I’ll Take the Remnants.

By Tad Miller | Nov 14, 2013
More Articles by Tad

No one could ever call me a great “brand builder” with regard to the online advertising we do for our clients.  As an agency, we aren’t really about building brand awareness or getting eye balls on a banner ad as the measurement of our success for clients.  Our goal is to get results from the advertising, whether that’s a sale, a form completion or some other Key Performance Indicator.  If brand building happens as a secondary benefit to that advertising, then all the better – but the result has always been what we have focused on.


As an agency, we came up doing Display Advertising on the Google Display Network (even when it was called the Google Content Network).  We have been able to get every vital detail and feature we needed with regard to conversions for years on the Google Display Network:

  • Contextual Keyword that delivered the ad and got the conversion and the cost per conversion on that keyword
  • The Domain and URL where the clicks and conversions came from, along with the cost per conversion metrics
  • The ability to exclude placements, devices, content types, etc.
  • The age and gender of the ad clickers and the ability to exclude them or change bidding on them
  • The topic of the pages where the ads can appear
  • The ability to refine ad targeting to combinations of contextual keyword, searcher interest in the last 30 days, site placement, the age of the ad viewer, the gender of the ad viewer, and the topic of the site where the ad appears
  • The ability to see if we are getting “Post Impression Conversions” or View Through Conversions
  • The ability to remarket to site visitors

I’ve sat through years of client meetings where we went over our PPC ad results, and the client’s Display Ad vendor also went over their results in the same meeting.  Over the years, it’s been a challenge to even get clients to look at the clicks on equal footing.  Some didn’t even want to track the conversions delivered from the Display Banners not used on Google AdWords, and the Display vendors definitely didn’t want to track anything but Impressions.  But eventually, all of the clients started realizing that a click is a click and the dollars that pay for those clicks are all green.  The result was always the same.  Budgets got reallocated from channels that didn’t deliver conversions in a cost effective way, to channels that did deliver conversion success in a cost effective manner (what we managed).

It’s gotten to the point where people I knew 10 years ago who were media buyers for TV, Radio, Print, etc. are now getting the Google AdWords Certifications (or at least trying to).  These are people whose previous advertising goals were all based on ad views or ad impressions.

I passed

Love this Facebook status update.

Anyway, most of my history in this area has honestly been privately laughing at Display Advertisers that blindly just buy the impressions and think that their cost per conversion is great, even though it’s 20 times more expensive than what I delivered.

Fast Forward to Now

To my astonishment, I recently learned that the Direct Display Advertisers and the websites that they advertise on have been laughing at me this whole time too.  You see, their ads are “Premium Display Banners” and what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years is considered to be advertising on “leftover remnant ad inventory.”  That’s right, I’ve been using their leftover scraps or “Remnant Ads.”

Premium? Really?

Premium? Really?

The same is even true on the work we do on LinkedIn Advertising.  We build incredibly targeted lead generation campaigns on LinkedIn Self-Serve Ads that are driving huge lead volume for incredibly low conversion costs.  But LinkedIn considers what we do to be capitalizing on their “Remnant Ad Inventory,”  even though those self-serve campaigns have been 10 times more cost effective than their Premium Ad units ever delivered and have actually delivered more results than that Premium Ad Inventory.

As soon as I was told this fact by a LinkedIn Ads representative, my immediate thought was “I’ll take my scraps and I’ll knock your premium ads over the head with the results…”

But this is the way it’s been for years.  The model has been:

Display inventory - How it's sold.

Display inventory – How it’s sold.

But the revenue for the sites that sell the ad inventory turns the pyramid upside down:

The money for the site owners is with the "Premium Ads" and Sponsorships.

The money for the site owners is with the “Premium Ads” and Sponsorships.

What Does the Future Hold?

The reality is that guys like me and the younger generation coming up in digital marketing have higher standards than just blindly paying for ad impressions.  We are absolutely spoiled on all of the features, options and tracking available from the Google Display Network.  We want the best results possible and our clients are demanding return on investment more than ever.

You can call an ad “Premium” all you want.  If it doesn’t have the ability to allow for the level of optimization and targeting that we are used to, we will find someplace else that does have that ability.

We also can’t fathom having to deal with a sales person to just buy ad impressions.  We can do that with self-serve remnant ad platforms ourselves in about 5 minutes (sometimes on the same exact sites).  We are optimizers by nature who bid, exclude and optimize to maximize success.  Whereas it seems like the sales person’s only focus is getting started and not “under-delivering” impressions.  Those sales people are essentially on “set it and forget it” mode for most of the month, and we are trying to squeeze every drop of conversion performance out of what we do on an almost daily basis.

I get that the site owners make better money from selling “guaranteed impressions.”  But I really believe that the days are numbered for advertisers shelling out for impressions without the ability to optimize as they go along (especially if remnant network ads are already filling the gaps in ad coverage their ad sales force can’t close).

This generation of online advertisers is going to take what “scraps” are left for us to leverage, we are going to find what works and what doesn’t, and we are going to optimize what works to maximize conversion volume and minimize cost per lead – and we will likely out-produce those “set it and forget it” premium ad buys.

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