6 Tips For A Great Direct Buy

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Direct buys are a way to hone in on great inventory and have targeted huge ROI campaigns. Are you buying programmatically and finding one site is working well? Does your campaign scream that it would be a great match for a specific site? Buying directly from the publisher is an age old practice that has yielded great results for both direct response and branded advertisers over the years.

Publishers hypothetically love it because they earn more revenue (the ad network, SSP or DSP doesn’t take a cut), and they can charge “premium prices”. Advertisers like locking in inventory, which creates a barrier to entry for competition and guarantees them access to an audience they value.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your direct buys. From the point when you approach the publisher to actually pushing the buy live, these tips will help ensure you have the greatest chance of the best campaign possible.

1) Negotiate When you approach the publisher, you get a rate card. This says what they want for their inventory (CPM), what ad sizes are available and a bit about their audience. In a direct buy, everything is negotiable. Often times you can impact your CPM dramatically by tweaking variables such as the ad sizes you want to buy, the type of traffic you’re buying from them and the amount of the campaign (pro tip: higher is better).

Where do you find media kits? Generally, you’ll find them in the footer of a publisher. Here are a couple of examples from New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

2) Big Buys, Great Out Clause Nothing gets a sales team salivating like an advertiser coming in and putting down a million dollar buy. They will give you better terms, cheaper rates and try to make the deal as easy for you as possible. It’s a huge commission check if they close it. Don’t have a million dollars for the buy liquid right now? Don’t worry, it’s all about the out clause. An out clause allows you to get out of the contract at a certain point. Negotiating a favorable one (like a 24 hour out clause with notice) gives you the ability to kill the buy quickly. If you structure your out clause right, you can place huge buys with very little risk. The risk is the “locked in period” the time in between when you give your notice for the out clause and when they’re obligated to stop serving you.

The out clause is the most important part of an insertion order (your contract to buy). Negotiate the wrong one and you could be stuck in a bad buy obligated to spend. Negotiate the right one, you can leverage great terms and have a low risk buy with huge upside. We like a 24 or 48 hour out clause at the worst.

3) Premium or Remnant? Clarify what kind of traffic you’re getting. Do you only want above the fold premium traffic? Are you used to buying remnant traffic from exchanges and just want to lock that up? Specifying the type of traffic you want from the publisher will dramatically impact the CPM you pay but also the results you see. You want to get it included in the IO so you know exactly what you’re going to be served.

What’s the difference between above the fold and below the fold? Above the fold are any ads that are seen on the site before the visitor starts scrolling. At the time of publishing this blog, we went to the New York Times Business Section and identified four ads on that page.

Click here to see the full size screen capture of the page to the left with borders identifying above the fold and below the fold ads.
Above the fold ad in red: One from Hublot
Below the fold ads in yellow: Three from Omega, Audible and Sephora

4) Verify Your Numbers You’ve negotiated your insertion order, you have your buy setup and it’s ready to go live. After one day, the publisher says they have served you 10 million impressions, yet your numbers don’t add up. This is a common scenario that can be easily avoided by some simple negotiating. When you’re negotiating your insertion order, ask that they use your impression numbers as the ones to go off of. Often there is a discrepancy between a publishers ad server and what you see. By forcing them to go off your numbers, you can take this risk out of the buy. For example, we have had buys in the past where there was up to a 10% discrepancy between the publishers numbers and our own ad servers (that’s a lot of lost profit without the right clause in the insertion order).

Using your own ad server is a great way to keep your own count. It also makes it easier to say, “trust my numbers”, when you’re using an ad server that is established and the publisher is familiar with (they will trust it more than one you built in your spare time).

5) Serve Your Own Use your own ad server. It’s an extra expense but it is crucial to your success. You don’t want to have to rely on the publisher’s ops team to swap out ads, change links or do other maintenance on your campaigns. Imagine that an offer goes down, or you find something that you think will convert better, but it’s 7 pm and everyone has gone home. Having to wait until the next morning wastes valuable time and money. A added bonus is your own ad server will give you impression numbers so you can verify them properly.

6) Match Your Ads When you’re buying direct, try modifying your ads to fit the theme of the site you’re buying on. Making them seem more natural often helps them blend in, makes them seem organic and changes user behavior and CTR. On a network or programmatic buy, you can’t do this. You’re simply buying on too many sites at once. If you’re doing a large direct buy, you know exactly where you’re buying and what you’re getting, so test these “stealth” ads, they often perform well.

Each direct buy is different. These tricks will help you squeeze the most out of your buys. Stay profitable my friends.

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