The Dangers of Blind Network Buys By Laura Maxwell-Hansen, General Manager Yahoo! New Zealand

3:52 PM, 19 August 2011

As the online media space evolves and new technology and media buying methods surface, many clients find themselves debating the question: How do we go about securing the best direct response results in an online campaign? In order to answer that question, they first need to consider the pros and cons of blind versus transparent ad networks.

Ad networks are companies that connect advertisers to a wide range of websites that want to sell remnant advertising inventory. In short, they sell space for online ads to appear. They are appealing to advertisers because campaigns can be cost effective, easier to manage and less time consuming due to reporting and optimisation efficiencies. However, Marketers need to be aware that not all online advertising networks are the same. In simple terms there are two different types of ad networks that they can choose from; blind or transparent.

With the growing pressure on agencies to build online campaigns for low costs, many clients lean towards blind network buying. Blind Networks offer good pricing to direct marketers in exchange for those marketers relinquishing control over where their ads will run. Blind networks achieve their low pricing through large bulk buys of remnant inventory.


However, building online campaigns across blind networks is not risk free. With blind buying, while a client may receive a site list, they will never know exactly what inventory they are getting or whether or not the sites are relevant to their campaign or brand. As a result, they run the risk of devaluing their brand. If a company’s campaign is being displayed on a website with unsavoury content then their brand is being associated with negative themes or ideas which could essentially cause harm to its image or reputation. Big brand advertisers invest heavily in building brand equity through premium media buys and developing cutting edge creative. Yet they're seemingly willing to risk eroding these gains by inadvertently positioning their brand in low quality environments.


This is where transparent networks step up to the plate. These are the companies that represent the publications in their portfolio with full transparency for the advertiser about where their ads will run. They typically promote high quality traffic at market prices and are heavily used by brand marketers.

Here in the New Zealand market there are many ad networks available including; Google, MSN, Ad2One, AdHub, The Performance Network (TPN), Tribal Fusion, Yahoo! New Zealand and more. Some take a transparent approach, others only offer blind network buys and some offer a combination of both approaches. While transparent networks can be a more expensive option, clients know exactly what they are paying for and can be assured that their campaign will run only on trusted, safe and credible sites.


As technology continues to evolve, new trends emerge in the media buying realm. We see the future of ad networks potentially lying with the Demand Side Platform (DSP). DSP’s are single buying platforms that aggregate multiple inventory sources and allow targeting against audiences at scale using a single buying currency, measurement, and optimisation. Already we are seeing positive and negative aspects of DSP’s emerge with bold claims of real time bidding, global audience targeting, self-service accountability for buyers, cost transparency and marketplace efficiency via one interface with the ability to power all ad inventory. Both globally and locally, Yahoo! is taking a measured approach to properly understand the DSP landscape and players. We consider it our role to help educate agencies and guide them through the still relatively unknown territory of DSP’s.


Choosing an ad network can be the decision that will either make or break an online campaign. Both blind and transparent ad networks have their advantages and disadvantages. Marketers should therefore consider some of the following questions before reaching their verdict:

• Are you comfortable with your brand being associated with random user generated content?

• Can you reach a high net-worth customer with no idea of what site your campaign is running on?

• Why would you not apply the same media decision making criteria to online as you do to offline media?

In this instance, the aphorism “you get what you pay for” rings true. Clients and marketers who are willing to invest in quality audiences understand that direct response is not only about yielding clicks and the lowest CPC… it’s also about brand credibility and maintaining brand tenure.

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