An Ad Network Story

When I started Consorte Media I talked a lot about how Hispanic marketing relied on anecdotal evidence as opposed to actual data. Now I have a different story to tell.

I started Consorte Media in the closet of my one bedroom apartment in July 2005 and at the time I was solely focused on online lead generation. My first problem, however, was that my customers loved my leads and wanted more.

In the summer of 2005, if you entered a Spanish language search on Google in the U.S., more often than not, you got back English results. This meant that many people in the U.S. didn’t use search to find their Spanish media and instead went directly to Spanish language websites they knew of in the U.S. or Latin America. This also meant that the volume of Spanish language searches in the U.S. on Google at the time was low and therefore I was constrained in the number of leads I could generate via search. The alternative was to buy display media on the leading Spanish language publishers in the U.S., like Univision.com and AOL Latino, etc. The only problem was the cost of media on those sites was exorbitantly high. They were charging upwards of $25 CPMs at the time and I could not get the math to work to generate leads and not lose money on the deal. That’s what led me to uncover hundreds of websites in Spanish – from the very large to the very small – sites I had never heard of before I started my digging.

I started calling on these websites and would invariably end up on the phone with the CEOs or owners. These sites often did not have full-time web developers or webmasters much less ad sales teams. I started talking to these publishers about their problems.

This was the story they told: no one was calling on them to buy ads on their sites, their only monetization alternative was Google Ad Sense and that often resulted in English ads, their only alternative was large Latin American Ad Networks that only served ads to Latin American visitors and almost all CPA campaigns (remember those horrible flash smiley face ads? Then you know what they were contending with) or English Ad Networks in the U.S. who only served publishers with large amounts of traffic and of course, only served English language ads.

A lot has changed since those initial calls with publishers. First, a little history:

Two of the original ad networks in the Hispanic space were Click Diario (started in Guatemala in 2003) and Directa Networks. Both networks were focused on Latin America and mostly served CPA campaigns.  In September 2005, ClickDiario was acquired by Livedoor and in June 2007 sold to Fox International Channels. Shortly after, it was merged with the purchase of Click Diario by Fox to create Punto Fox.

At around the same time (2003), in the U.S., the Hispanic Digital Network (HDN) was formed. HDN started out as a web development company and built websites for leading publishers. As part of their web development agreement with publishers HDN acquired a publisher’s advertising inventory. HDN itself was acquired by PR Newswire in 2008.

Then in 2004, Hispanoclick came along. Started by a husband and wife team in Canada (the wife is a Latina), Hispanoclick was also primarily focused on performance campaigns. Hispanoclick was acquired by Batanga at the end of 2007.

In 2006, Consorte Media purchased ad inventory on Directa, Click Diario, HDN and Hispanoclick in an attempt to drive leads. Finally, necessity being the mother of invention: the Consorte Media Ad Network was born in the spring of 2007.

When we started calling on publishers to join our ad network we heard more stories. Publishers were often locked up in year-long exclusive ad network agreements with ad networks that either didn’t provide campaigns at all or only rarely. These publishers were then justifiably skeptical about “ad networks” in general.

When we hit the advertiser circuit, we learned exactly why many of the early Hispanic ad networks had trouble – the shift to online advertising dollars was only barely starting to happen in the Hispanic market. A situation made worse by the fact that many Hispanic agencies at the time had not developed digital expertise and were focused only on television, radio or print.

So at the beginning there was a lot to overcome and a lot to balance. Since then we’ve switched ad servers (from Zedo to Right Media to DFP). We’ve had reporting issues and had to finally build our own system. We’ve had to create our own payment processing solution, which, as any ad network (general market ad networks, too) will tell you is terribly manual and involves a lot of juggling. We’ve been paid late by advertisers or not at all and had to pay publishers anyway. You get the picture. We made a lot of mistakes but we also learned a tremendous amount.

Since our entry there have been some general market ad networks that announced they were entering the space: for example, Glam Media and Gorilla Nation - only to pretty much abandon the efforts a year later. And of course, many of the large U.S. general market ad networks like Advertising.com and ValueClick started yelling, “Me, too!” in the advertising marketplace only to turn around and ask companies like Consorte Media to fulfill their campaigns.

After the advent of Adify – a company that licenses a packaged ad network infrastructure platform - some of the big publishers have jumped on the Ad Network bandwagon, like Orange/StarMedia, Terra (EZ Target) and Univision.com – each now touting their own ad networks.

Fox is still in the Hispanic Ad Network market, too but primarily focused on Latin America as opposed to U.S. Hispanic, as is Jumba. More recently, newer, smaller players have entered the U.S. Hispanic field like Hola Networks, Alcance (started by an ex-Consorte employee) and PulpoMedia (staffed with ex-Consorte employees). I actually get a kick out of the fact that some of these competitors have Consorte alums.

So a lot has taken place in the past few years. In essence, the Hispanic Ad Network market has evolved in a very similar manner to the U.S. general market ad network industry. Today, we’re definitely facing some of the same issues the U.S. general market is including the problem of several ad networks that are hard to differentiate. 

A recent MediaPost article on Hispanic Ad Networks left us off the competitive matrix. To give you a sense, Comscore has our reach at 2MM monthly unique visitors, Quantcast and our own servers show ten times that amount. Reach, however, is not what matters to publishers. Publishers care about eCPM. And frankly, reach is often not what matters to advertisers. Advertisers care about brand safety and thus, transparency – where is their ad going to show up and will they be happy it did.

The reality is that all of us say the same thing to attract publishers: we promise high eCPMs and leading advertisers. We say the same things to attract advertisers: we work with great sites, can target anything and everything everywhere, and have great reach. It’s difficult to stand out from a marketing viewpoint when we’re all basically doing the same thing: matching advertisers with publishers.

How to truly differentiate Hispanic Ad Networks? The proof, you see, is in the pudding.

I drive Lizie, Consorte’s head of Publishers, crazy when I tell publishers, “You don’t have to choose Consorte Media and you shouldn’t only choose Consorte Media.”

I tell publishers, “You want to run as many ad tags as possible and you’ll soon discover how we’re all different. Some networks mainly serve CPA campaigns, others promise high CPMs but only have campaigns intermittently, some guarantee a CPM but it’s low and fixed and requires guaranteed inventory, others simply do media buys on websites when they have the need for traffic – whatever their goal.”

One publisher we were trying to recruit called to tell me he was going to sign an exclusive deal with another network. I said, “That’s great but why would you sign an exclusive deal?” He said another network could guarantee a $0.40 CPM for 6 months if he guaranteed X impressions.

“Wow,“ I said, “That sounds interesting, but is that a gamble you want to make? Especially when you don’t have to?”

He paused and let out a big sigh of relief.

Turns out the ad network story is not that different from my original story: actual results matter. There’s no need to rely on anecdotal when you can test the offerings available to you.

At the end of the day, we are happy to have competition because the growth of the Hispanic Ad Network industry is important. It means the content gap that existed a few years ago is being filled and that’s a good thing for everyone. Today, when you search in Spanish on Google in the U.S. you don’t get English results. The more ad networks make monetization possible for the content creators focused on the Hispanic market – the better. The eco-system grows and validates the Hispanic market and the Hispanic consumer – all I’ve ever wanted.

The End.

 

You can reach Alicia at www.aliciamorga.com

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