Flogs and Farticles

New media such as blogs and social networks have opened vast territory for information dissemination, networking and connectivity. Due to their low costs, every “netizen” with an opinion can set up a Web-based soapbox from which to broadcast to the world. As a result, like-minded communities of writers and followers have sprung up around any number of topics large and small: from politics to film, video games to parenting tips.

The word-of-mouth, informal style that prevails on blogs and social networking sites, and the interactive exchanges that regularly occur between author and readers, create a certain level of trust within that community. That familiarity and trust is bolstered by the fact that most contributors are unpaid for their efforts, and are instead motivated entirely by an interest in the subject matter at hand.

This level of comfort is particularly valuable in the context of product reviews. Readers looking to make purchases have come to expect and appreciate honest appraisals from impartial and informed reviewers who are not, themselves, looking to sell anything.

Advertisers have begun to take notice of the enormous potential that blogs and social networking sites have as vehicles to promote products and services. Riding this trend, some advertisers are providing free samples to review sites. Others are creating corporate sites to provide real-time updates on product releases and foster interaction with their consumer base.

More Than Just a Blog
Affiliate marketers and other publishers have discovered the advantages inherent in this environment. Many now incorporate product promotion within various blogs and Web pages. Some have even begun creating fake blogs and profiles masquerading as review sites, known as “flogs” in industry jargon. Going even farther, some aggressive marketers have penned fake articles (or “farticles”) and include fake or paid testimonials extolling the virtues of a given product that they promote on their blog or other Web venues.

While potentially lucrative, this conflation of marketing and social media carries significant risk and potential liability. Because of the nature of the medium as a place for amateurs and average citizens to voice their opinions, there is an expectation on the part of the consumer that the author is not a paid spokesman or salesman. But when a publisher is engaged in marketing products and services for a fee, or when that person is an employee of a company selling the products discussed, there is an inherent conflict of interest. Under those circumstances, flogs, farticles and
dubious testimonials amount to a form of deceptive marketing, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), various state attorneys general and other regulatory bodies are cracking down.

For example, in June 2009, as part of the increasing attention that governmental regulators have directed toward these practices, Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery franchise, paid $300,000 in penalties to the New York Attorney General to settle allegations that it had posted fake customer reviews of its services on Lifestyle Lift’s blog and other websites.

A Code Is Born
In turn, the FTC recently issued a draft of proposed revisions to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising designed to address marketing efforts now proliferating in new media. The essence of the proposed guideline revisions is that online marketing forums must fully inform the unsuspecting reader of any and all financial interests that the subject bloggers or writers have in connection with blog posts, social networking site pages, articles or testimonials.

Pursuant to the draft guidelines, if writers would receive a commission for the sale of a given product or are employed by the company making the product, they must disclose this fact prominently. Even where the author has received the product for free for review purposes, the reader must be made aware through an appropriate disclosure.

Similarly, the author of a fake article (perhaps the riskiest form of marketing) must disclose prominently and explicitly at the top of the piece (or other suitable location) that the article is not from a real news organization, that it is not a real article but, rather, that it is a marketing device and what, if anything, the author stands to gain by virtue of the products or services promoted therein.

The draft guidelines also contain provisions that are applicable to the use of testimonials. First and foremost, fake or fictitious testimonials are strictly prohibited. Second, when using a testimonial, the blogger or writer must not edit or change it from the original in any material way (outside of correcting grammatical or spelling errors, and cutting down the size when doing so does not distort the testimonial itself). Lastly, where the provider of the testimonial is paid or stands to gain by providing the testimonial, this fact must be disclosed to the reader in close proximity to the testimonial itself.

When properly utilized, the sense of community, group interaction and citizen input facilitated by blogs, social networking sites and other new media can greatly enhance your business, whether you are an advertiser, marketer or both. However, in order to steer clear of regulatory scrutiny, you must take steps to ensure that you aren’t deceiving consumers by pretending to be an average Joe with an opinion when you’re really just utilizing a different medium through which to make your sales pitch.

Please note that this is only a brief overview of some of the legal issues surrounding new media advertising on the Internet. Remember to obtain guidance from a licensed legal professional prior to engaging in such advertising.

Perform

Protecting Consumer Privacy

Legislators, online marketers and consumer privacy groups still struggle over the creation of mutually acceptable online privacy laws – although all see the need for some level of protection. A coalition of 10 consumer advocates and privacy groups called on Congress to limit companies’ ability to track Web users and serve them targeted ads. Two key proposals under debate are to establish a Do-Not-Track registry similar to the Do-Not-Call registry, and imposing a 24-hour limit to holding consumer data. While the proposals are likely to draw protests from online marketers, the fact that privacy groups are allowing behavioral targeting for any period of time – even just 24 hours – represents a departure from the staunch standpoint that tracking and targeting always requires opt-in consent. The coalition’s proposals also aim to protect American consumers in online and mobile channels by bringing consumer data collection under the authority of the Federal Trade Commission. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) is expected to introduce new privacy legislation late this year.

 

Microsoft Adds Ad Preview

Microsoft’s adCenter has added a new tool that lets you preview your ads while avoiding accidental clicks and unnecessary impressions. The Ad Preview Tool helps ad- Center advertisers confirrm that their search ad is appearing. While managing campaigns, users can access the Ad Preview Tool directly in adCenter and preview their ads as they would appear on Bing.com.

 

Opting Out on Ads

AOL has agreed to notify all subscribers about how to opt out of email footer advertisements. The change in course comes after the filing of two class-action lawsuits, one of which alleged the ads in email messages violated a federal privacy law. AOL began inserting ads in email footers more than three years ago. However, in April 2008, the company quietly allowed paying subscribers to opt out of the ads. Now, after settling the lawsuits with a $110,000 donation to charity, AOL has agreed to proactively inform users on how to opt out of the ads. Tricia Primrose, AOL’s executive vice president for corporate communications, said the decision to allow all users to avoid the ads reflects the new management team’s commitment to offering users a good experience.

 

No-Keyword Search

Imagine paid search without keywords. Nick Fox, Google’s business product management director for AdWords, speculated during a keynote address at the San Jose Search Engine Strategies show that no-keyword search could become a reality within the next five to 10 years. Increased user sophistication in searches, longer query length and unique search terms are just a few reasons why keywords may no longer be essential. According to Google, 20 to 25 percent of search queries in the last six months were new queries. Additionally, a Hitwise study reveals that the number of five-plus word search queries increased by 10 percent in the past year, while two-word search queries decreased by 5 percent. The changing landscape has many advertisers asking whether their skills should be measured based on painstaking attention to long query keyword detail. However, a no-keyword search could spell out advantages for advertisers. Advertisers would have an opportunity to better connect with searchers on natural language queries, and could better connect with consumers to capitalize on all relevant advertising opportunities. PPC advertising campaigns could also be much more efficient without a keyword research component. We’ll see how Google tries to make it work.

 

Face Time on Facebook

Social networking sites now account for one out of every five ads people view online, according to a recent comScore study. MySpace and Facebook were the top online display ad publishers, delivering more than 80 percent of ads among sites in the social networking category. It’s no wonder. The rise in popularity of social networking sites means Internet users are spending a large portion of their time on these sites. Meanwhile, affiliates are still figuring out the best ways to use low-cost ads to optimize access to highly targeted audiences. “As social networking sites innovate on their existing ad offerings, the category should continue to grow in ad volume, while CPMs could also increase if the sites can demonstrate a high campaign ROI,” said comScore senior vice president Jeff Hackett.

 

Tighter Tracking Restrictions

Online businesses may have to be even more careful about tracking and consumer privacy. In a case closely observed by privacy advocates and behavioral targeting executives, the Federal Trade Commission gave final approval to a settlement with Sears Holdings Management Corp. about tracking software. The settlement requires Sears destroy all data it collected from online users who downloaded tracking software it distributed between April 2007 and January 2008. While Sears didn’t admit to wrongdoing or agree to pay any monetary damages, it promised to “clearly and prominently” notify Web users about any tracking applications in the future. In the company’s market research program, users were paid $10 to download tracking software that would monitor their Web activity. While many in the marketing community insist the opt-in email solicitation is commonplace and legally valid, the FTC censured Sears, alleging it did not adequately convey that the program would “monitor nearly all of the Internet behavior that occurs on consumers’ computers.” The FTC crackdown on potential online privacy violations will keep behavioral targeters on their toes and could set a new disclosure standard.

 

m-Commerce

 

With an estimated 71 percent of teens now owning mobile phones and using browsing functions more than adults, it’s no surprise that teen retailers like American Eagle Outfitters are scurrying to create mobile commerce divisions. While still in its nascent stages, mcommerce should give a significant boost to companies who build a mobile strategy that effectively interacts with their customer base. However, it may be too soon to tell. According to Forrester Research, while about 52 percent of Web buyers (consumers who’ve made purchases online) have cell phones with Webenabled features, only about 14 percent have ever used their phones to make a purchase without speaking to anyone. Most of those purchases are for online content for the phone, such as games or ringtones. Only 5 percent purchased clothing.

 

Media Consumption on the Rise

Americans are consuming more media than ever with huge jumps seen in mobile and online video viewing, according to data from The Nielsen Company’s “Three Screen Report.” Mobile video viewing increased by 70 percent over last year with over 15 million Americans saying they watched mobile video in the second quarter of 2009. Online video consumption also continues to rise with a 46 percent increase in viewership compared to last year. At 83 percent, shortform video (like YouTube clips) still makes up the biggest share of online video viewing. Namebrand TV network content comprises the majority of mobile video viewing. Adults 18 to 24 lead the pack, watching more than 5 hours of online video each month. But the surge in online and mobile media consumption hasn’t been at the cost of TV viewership. Nielson data shows 57 percent of consumers with Internet access at home watch TV and go online simultaneously at least once a month. Given the convergence taking place, those who look at content holistically and disseminate their brand message across the three screens will have the greatest advantage. That will require high quality content that can traverse online, mobile and TV screens.

 

Impulse Buys

Smartphone users are open to receiving targeted advertising on their mobile devices, with certain types of ads working better than others. According to Compete’s quarterly “Smartphone Intelligence” survey, nearly one third of all smartphone owners are comfortable or very comfortable receiving targeted marketing on their device. Of these, nearly half are receptive to location based ad offers at restaurants and 45 percent of respondents said they would use mobile grocery coupons. If cell phone users find your ads useful, you will have an opportunity to target consumers the moment they are making purchasing decisions. Conversely, if your ads are not helpful they could be quickly tuned out as a nuisance.

 

 

Google on Display

 

So, Google has joined the display ad game. In a bid to duplicate its search-advertising success in the display ad market, Google launched its much-anticipated automated ad exchange in September. Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange works much like a stock market. It offers a real-time, automated auction system where ad networks and publishers can post their ad inventory to auction while other networks and publishers can bid on and buy specific kinds of inventory.

Ad Exchange is a rebuild of DoubleClick’s old exchange using Google technology. According to Google executives, the new system will greatly simplify the process of buying and selling display advertising space, allowing many more publishers and advertisers to enter the display ad market. “The objective from the outset is to grow the display advertising pie for everybody,” said Neal Mohan, Google’s vice president for product management. In fact, the new system will automatically allow hundreds of thousands of advertisers and publishers who now use Google’s AdWords and AdSense systems to run their ads and ad space through the exchange.

But Google’s entrance into the business could shake up the market. Up to now, Yahoo’s Right Media has led the online display-ad world; Google’s Ad Exchange could come to dominate the market over time. Some industry executives assert that the DoubleClick exchange will give advertisers more flexibility than Yahoo’s, helping marketers to more precisely target the audience their ads are shown to and monitor the results. While Google says ad inventory available in the system will reach 76 percent of U.S. audiences and 73 percent of international audiences, time will tell how effective Google’s display ads will be.

 

 

New CEO in SEO

Search engine marketing firm and SEO 2.0 pioneer Relevant Searches picked Maury Domengeaux for the CEO’s chair. In addition to his career in search marketing, Domengeaux has more than 20 years of experience in venture capital, executive management, high-technology development and marketing. Domengeaux has held executive management positions in both private and public companies that include Rivio, Hewlett-Packard, Iomega Corporation and Quantum.

 

 

 

Germany Joins the Google War

First, Google Books came under fire from three U.S.-based companies. They warned Google’s plan to digitize millions of books and post them online could give the company an exclusive license to profit from millions of texts. Now, Germany has taken up the fight. In a U.S. court filing, the German government said Google’s plan would violate the country’s copyright law while having an international impact on user privacy protections and the rights of German authors. While some believe the digitization of books would offer more content to an increasing number of consumers, others argue Google is going too far. For its part, Google says it will allow rivals to sell access to the digi-books, but that’s done little to appease critics. Critics fear the deal would give Google the unchecked ability to set prices for libraries once books are scanned and online. Time will tell whether Germany’s ongoing efforts will thwart a Google book deal with the European Union.

 

 

 

Solar Marketing Power

With all the talk about going solar, there’s not much to show for it. While solar technology is expected to play a major role in the U.S. renewable energy program, investment and installations are proceeding at a snail’s pace. According to a study by Clean Energy Group, improved marketing initiatives will be fundamental to expanding consumer interest in solar energy. Educational websites, partnerships with local builders and working with celebrities are some of the marketing tactics solar companies intend to employ. The group is encouraging solar marketers to connect with consumers by using marketing messages that emphasize the value and financial benefi ts of the alternative technology. Nearly half of consumers cite initial out-of-pocket costs as the main barrier to installing solar energy systems in their homes. The findings have fueled solar energy companies to transform their marketing campaigns.

 

Editor’s Letter: The Sun Shines Through

Have you driven down Main Street lately? If your town is anything like mine, you’re seeing a lot of empty storefronts with “For Lease” signs in the window. My favorite bagel shop is gone after more than 20 years in one location. A hot new restaurant closed before I could even try it. Even a thrift store shut down after decades of service to a local charity. How bad is it when people can’t afford second-hand stuff at bargain prices?

It’s a tough time for small business people, where cash flow gets tricky when vendors pay late and customers push back on pricing. Merchants slash prices to attract customers, but that narrows their profit margins, effectively adding to the economic pressure. And despite recent upticks in economic indicators, it looks like this holiday season will be another downer for consumer spending.

All this means, of course, it’s a perfect opportunity for smart online marketers.

Online sales are rising as shoppers save gas and shoe leather by seeking out the best values on the Web. Performance marketing tools and techniques get better every single day. There are now more than 400 ad networks, ranging from tiny mom-and-pop operations to companies listed in the Inc 500. And performance marketing veterans seem more committed than ever to stomping out the ethical lapses that hurt their industry.

Now it’s up to you. Whether you’re an affiliate, network, agency or merchant, this season will test your ingenuity, business savvy, ethics, design skills and guts. If you fail to rise to the challenge, you’ll probably have an awful season. If you make the right moves, you’ll seize the opportunity and charge ahead.

Revenue Performance is here to help, with a holiday sampler for stories and columns that can help anyone on almost any level of the performance marketing industry.

First, please take note of our pull-out supplement, the Online Advertising Blue Book. The Blue Book is designed to help smart affiliates connect with the right networks. Eric Reyes, who has written many of our best feature stories in the past, edited the first issue of this new magazine for our publisher, mthink.

We’re very pleased to welcome back Senior Writer Susan Kuchinskas, who was the founding managing editor of Revenue five years ago. She’s contributed two superb stories for this issue, including our cover story, Seasonal Sunshine, which offers specific strategies for boosting clickthroughs and conversions in the current environment. Kuchinskas has also analyzed the increasingly segmented world of ad networks in her second feature for this issue, providing a much-needed map through an ever-thicker maze.

In our feature interview, media guru Clay Shirky talks about the evolution of new media, including performance advertising, from being quirky and cool to “boring” and fully integrated into our lives. You may be surprised to learn why boring is good.

Our columnists have still more ideas. Designer Pedro Sostre goes against the grain by talking about how product features must outweigh aesthetic consideration when designing in a recession. Affiliate manager Paresh Vadavia tells how to sell luxury goods when consumers are pinching pennies. Jim Lillig explains which networks will be best-positioned to avoid the inevitable shakeout. Rebecca Madigan updates what the Performance Marketing Alliance is doing to stop taxation of affiliates.

New to this issue are columnists Mike Evans, who reviews some popular mailing programs, Jay Weintraub, who opines about ethics in continuity programs, attorney David Klein, who discusses proposed regulations affecting fake blogs and articles, and Geno Prussakov, who outlines the risks when affiliates sign up for multiple networks.

We can’t do much about the economy. But we hope this issue brings a little sunshine into your holiday season. Now, if I could only figure out where to get a good bagel.

Cheers!
Tom Murphy, Editor
 

The Ad Network Shuffle

The following piece was written by Eric Reyes and appeared in the Blue Book Guide to Ad Networks and Exchanges in November, 2009.

As ad networks keep proliferating, some industry watchers are asking whether there is an ad network bubble and whether consolidation will keep it from popping.

Everyone has an opinion about ad networks, especially those working for one of the estimated 400-plus large and small shops in the U.S. And these networks do many different things. Vertical ad networks are different from big, horizontal ad networks. The behavioral targeting networks are different from up-and coming semantic targeting networks. If you travel the hushed halls of these ad networks, the whispers seem to seep through the walls: The crash is coming! The crash is coming!

While 2008 and most of 2009 were considered the worst of times for most industries during the recent economic crisis, for the ad world, specifically the ad network universe, the hurt, experts predict, will hit in 2010 or 2011. But even so, there are just as many experts who say the ad network marketplace is robust and will continue to be so. Just look at the sheer number of us, they say. In fact, a recent survey by Collective Media found that advertisers and interactive agencies continue to invest in ad networks. Up to 90 percent of those surveyed said they want to work with ad networks this year. That is about 5 percent more than the past year. The survey also found that more than half said they could spend up to 15 percent of their online budgets for ad networks.

Some disagree that it is all sweetness and light, going as far as to say there is an ad network bubble – that no market can sustain the number of companies all doing essentially the same thing. Even in the face of the best earnings, the utter abundance of ad networks will lead to mergers, closings, bankruptcy. But that was a year ago and the ad networks are still here. In fact, niche ad networks have raised $1.5 billion in the last five years from venture capitalists, according to VentureSource. It also states that the top 25 companies have taken nearly $1.2 billion of that total. More than three-quarters of that cash has been raised in the past three years. That’s just new companies and not the more than $250 million that went to Adify, Blue Lithium, Quigo, Tacoda, Third Screen Media and others.

So, where’s the panic coming from? There were a few high-profile flameouts in the last year or so that got some attention. Most notably, early last year, ESPN let go of all its ad networks it was working with, saying, essentially, that it didn’t like the lack of control it had over the kind of ads being served. Around the same time, the Washington Post shuttered its 16-month-old blog ad network, citing the “innovation” that was coming.

In these two cases, the ad networks may have been underperforming for the bean counters, but what seemed to irk them more was that the ad networks dealt in “remnant” inventory and that the automated placement of the unsold inventory amounted to tarnishing the host site’s value. At the time, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia president Wenda Harris Millard infamously stated that selling Web inventory like “pork bellies” would cheapen brands.

That name-calling did not seem to hurt the fortunes of ad networks, as they continued to see healthy ad spend. “The market itself can bear [hundreds of ad networks], since there is clearly demand right now which I don’t see diminishing,” said Michael Sprouse, CMO at Epic Advertising. “We have believed that the number of ad networks will continue to grow into the many thousands,” said Paul Edmondson, CEO of Yield- Build. “Super-large ad networks will prefer to have direct relationships with publishers, but will go to exchanges for some inventory.”

In fact, firms such as eMarketer see no end in sight. It predicts U.S. online ad spend to exceed $50 billion in 2012. It was $21.1 billion in 2007. That’s the spend on everything online-related, including display ads, video, classified, search ads and lead generation, but not mobile ad spend. Warren Lee, partner at Canaan Partners, noted two reasons ad networks continue to thrive: The hours people spend online just keep going up – 12 hours per week, according to a Forrester survey. This, of course, encourages online ad spend. The second reason is that the number of websites keeps going up. This makes it difficult for advertisers and agencies to know which sites to work with. This is where ad networks help out.

Some believe that ad networks are still riding high simply because agencies have yet to launch in earnest their own in-house networks. Predictions state that 2010 and 2011 will be the challenging years as agencies divert their spend into their own systems. If an agency does only in-house work and sells one-quarter of the inventory that an outside network did, but at a 10 times better CPM, it is a money-maker. With online advertising expected to experience continued growth into the next decade, ad networks doing some simple math may prove or disprove their viability. Layoffs, on the other hand, will be inevitable as networks that bring in between $20 million and $40 million and have more than 100 employees find they simply can’t pay that many people with what they bring in. Panic will ensue.

And what comes with panic – consolidation. “There will no doubt be consolidation in the ad network market,” said Dave Martin, vice president of interactive media at Ignite. “Only the best will survive and they will likely become part of larger media companies who can compliment their offerings with cost-effective reach.”

J. P. Morgan’s 2009 investment guide also predicts the fickle finger of the merger fates. The guide says, “We saw large portals make significant investments and acquisitions to strengthen their foothold in the ad network space. We believe large portals are naturally well positioned, as it is easier for both advertisers and publishers to fulfill all of their needs on fewer platforms, while a consolidated network yields greater leverage of technology and advertiser/publisher relationships.”

“So, are ad networks dying?” asked Julia Casale-Amorim, CMO of Casale Media. “Yes, some ad networks are dying, but the species is hardly facing extinction.” While we haven’t witnessed any high-profile exterminations, some experts do hear the sound of the largest ad networks sharpening their carving knives. “The impetus for acquisition is obvious,” said Emily Riley, online advertising analyst at Jupiter Research. “For the conglomerates, the potential to improve their portfolio of offerings to both advertisers and publishers as well as overpower their competition, theoretically lies in the control of ad servers and ad networks.”

In the opinion of Casale-Amorim, the majority of “these infantile networks use the same technology, the same platforms, and the same approach – each applying a different ‘sales spin’ to what are essentially identical offerings.” She added that many traffic in “air.” And as prices for premium-placed CPM have risen, the selling point of cheap cost-per-thousand diminishes to the smallest pinprick. If a big player such as ValueClick wants 25-cent CPM, why pay for a $10 CPM for premium placement? “Anyone who’s trying to tell you that reach is a key differentiator, you need to ask them ‘what else?’ It’s much more complicated than that,” said Jordan Rohan, managing partner at Clearmeadow Partners.

The J.P. Morgan report put it rather bluntly: “We expect larger players to gain share, and we think there may be further consolidation among private companies. We also see some companies likely closing their business.”

The prognosis is not as grim as that, not if all the interested players can help keep ad networks plentiful and pellucid. Publishers, for example, don’t want to work with 15 or 20 different ad networks and spend the time it takes to manage the relationships. In fact, ad network optimization is now a legitimate business venture thanks to the proliferation of networks. For media buyers, they are looking more at results and hard data, since the song of the networks’ sales pitch sounds the same no matter who they are talking to. Even the economy gets some of the blame, for keeping the venture capital money at bay, just when ad networks need it to grow to the next level.

The next phase in the life of ad networks is undetermined. Some consensus involves agencies and exchanges. “Going forward, I see two emerging trends driving change in the near term,” said John Nardone, CEO of [x+1]. “First, ad exchanges will provide direct access to buyers, reducing the need for a sales force. Second, major agency holding companies like Omnicom and WPP will launch private ad networks, as they continue to acquire network infrastructure and targeting technology and platforms. They’ll bring a hard-to-beat combination of inventory aggregation and ad targeting capabilities.”

Ad exchanges, some say, will make it easy for people to create an ad network and then quickly and cheaply aggregate unsold inventory. Exchanges can find all that cheap inventory very quickly and are quite efficient and doing it as long as “quality” is not a concern. Since media buyers do not have time to sort through all the different content, the quality of the placement may suffer. It is undetermined whether exchanges will shorten the life of ad networks.

If consolidation accelerates, some suggest looking into ad network profit margins. Rohan noted that “Burst.com has 47 percent margins on 116 million uniques, ValueClick has 45 percent margins. Intermediaries receive about 45 cents for every dollar – you’re paying them almost half of your spend.” He added that many ad networks tout their nonexistent transparency. “Total transparency would mean that they transfer terabytes of data to you that you would have no idea what to do with,” Rohan said. He said that useful transparency for media buyers would be data-filtered to tell you the context surrounding the online conversions. “Typically you don’t know where all the conversions came from. Which sites did they visit, how many impressions before they converted, these are the kinds of data you need.”

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) threw a monkey wrench into the party in August when it released a study that basically said ad spend through ad networks was useless. The OPA study states that ads placed through ad networks and portals earned the smallest change for branding metrics, and in some cases made no difference at all. Pam Horan, president of OPA, said in the press, “Different environments produce different results.”

However the wind blows, ad networks seem to be here to stay. They have some righteous defenders, and growth or consolidation may depend on the rate of mend to the U.S. economy. “There are a host of networks that focus on adding value beyond supply aggregation in the equation that will not only exist, but thrive and grow,” said Michael Katz, president of InterClick. “It’s naive to underestimate networks, which tend to be hotbeds for innovation. And it’s instructive that the largest agency-holding companies are all building networks.”