Gaming The Metrics: How The “Made For Advertising” Industry Thrives

by Ebiquity Marketing
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Every ad-supported media company makes trade-offs between long term revenue and short term revenue. TV and radio shows, mobile games, and webpages can all boost short term revenue by increasing ad loads. But that short term tactic drives away consumers and advertisers, creating headwinds for long term growth. It’s a natural check that balances the competing needs of media companies, marketers, and consumers.

But what if a media company only cared about short term revenue with no concern for building long term relationships with consumers and advertisers? Imagine a media business that could continue to attract an audience in spite of a user-hostile experience. And imagine an advertising supply chain that allowed a media company to collect ad spend without having any relationships with brands and agencies. What would that company look like?

The answer is “Made For Advertising” websites, and you’ve likely encountered these properties through clickbait links like these:

What is “Made For Advertising” inventory?

“Made For Advertising” is a class of ad-supported websites that thrive on the opacity of the programmatic advertising supply chain. Properties like 247mirror.com, definition.org, and parentinfluence.com bombard users with auto-refreshing display ads and auto-playing video ads, creating an experience that any rational marketer would avoid. And yet these properties are built to be highly attractive to automated ad buying systems:

  • They publish brand-safe content
  • They offer inventory at very low prices
  • They construct ad layouts that drive high viewability
  • They continuously play videos to drive high completion rates

Because the consumer experience on “Made For Advertising” inventory is so poor, these properties have near-zero organic traffic. Instead, they run clickbait ads on social platforms, search engines, and content recommendations widgets, luring users with salacious headlines and shocking photos.

The “Made For Advertising” business model is built on an arbitrage opportunity -- buy paid clicks at very low prices and then overcome that traffic acquisition cost by selling display and video ads through the programmatic supply chain. Through this model, “Made For Advertising” media companies can operate profitably with no regard for long term relationships with consumers and marketers.

A question might pop into your mind at this point: hasn’t this problem already been solved through human reviews run by the companies that trade the inventory in the first place (aka Supply Side Platforms or SSPs)?

Unfortunately the answer suggested by a research run by DeepSee provides a disappointing answer. In order to overcome the checks put in place by SSPs, some “Made For Advertising” properties apply what DeepSee defines “Misleading Content Formats”. When a “Made For Advertising” domain must overcome the cost of paid traffic, it monetizes aggressively through a user-hostile experience. But when the same property gets direct traffic, the ad experience is user-friendly. This double-behaviour makes it more difficult for SSPs to detect malpractices.

Research from Jounce Media estimates that the “Made For Advertising” industry collects 12.3% of all programmatic web display revenue and 24.3% of all programmatic web video revenue. That’s billions of dollars that marketers could instead deploy to newsrooms and independent content creators.

Managing “Made For Advertising”

Ebiquity is committed to empowering our clients to invest with confidence in digital advertising, and that means bringing a data-first approach to “Made For Advertising”.

Through our partnership with Jounce Media, we monitor the ad monetization choices of over 1.5 million programmatically-traded websites, mobile apps, and CTV apps. Jounce rebuilds this data set daily and identifies thousands of “Made For Advertising” properties. We then integrate this data into our ongoing media audits, enabling advertisers to quantify their exposure to “Made For Advertising” inventory and make data-driven media planning decisions.

 

To find our more, do not hesitate to reach out to: Francesca.Leronni@ebiquity.com