The hunt for premium

Like beauty, premium is in the eye of the beholder

– Bob Arnold, previously Director of Digital and Social Media at Kellogg’s, now Digital and Strategy Lead for Google


What is premium inventory anyway? 

Premium is whatever it is defined by whose consuming or benefiting from the content. To be honest, if you ask 100 people this question, you are most likely to receive 100 different responses. Yet somehow as an industry, we have managed to create a completely new offering out of this ambiguity.

In today’s world where data is abundant where one can reach an audience via demo-,geo-, modal-, emo-, tempo- among others, the ad possibilities to highly target and deliver against these audiences should be the new norm.  So…why pull wool over our eyes?  Why should we need this assurance of ‘quality’ (and pay more) just to reach a level of comfort?


What makes inventory more valuable to an advertiser? To a publisher? To a consumer?

If you are the advertiser, it depends on specific campaign goals. For example, Bob Arnold defines premium inventory as “inventory that enables the highest probability to increase sales and long-term brand equity.” His perspective as a brand advertiser determines success to be equal to driving top-of-mind brand awareness, purchasing intent-to-growing sales and building brand equity and affinity. Obviously these metrics will differ accordingly if one were to be a direct response marketer, for instance.  So premium – as success too, is open to interpretation and can also be subjective.

If you are the publisher, conventional wisdom suggests that only well-known and highly respected media owners sell premium inventory (direct sell & buy), opposed to those looking for a quick revenue solution and outsourcing it to ad networks or RTB platforms.  Inventory that is sold direct is often deemed as premium, and heavily relies on the reputation and the so-called identified base of followers by the publisher, which has a value-based price. As such, advertisers can be expected to pay more to reserve this inventory and be able to serve their ads at priority. In an article by Marketing Land, premium online display CPM rates can go anywhere from $5 to $75+, regardless of the actual performance to the advertiser.

As a consumer, advertising that integrates into my overall experience will deliver brand resonance and engagement while maintaining the publisher’s quality and consistency without threat. This is where the creative art of advertising intersects with the science of technology. It’s all about context – a person’s specific situation, environment, and preferences are all taken into account. Context-aware advertising platforms (Thanks to the advent of geotagging and indoor positioning technology), coupled with real-time data integration, are anticipating our needs, making the best recommendations, and providing valuable information about our surroundings at any given moment. Ad placements that seamlessly integrate into a feed, has the ability to mimic a user’s interface and experience will ultimately deliver a new value equation.


So, ultimately the question prevails: Is premium inventory worth paying a premium for?

Curt Hecht from The Weather Company cleverly puts it…

Premium ad inventory is knowing your ad is connected to a highly valuable audience and connected to content or an experience that’s important to consumers… because we (marketers) help people to be more informed in their lives.

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