the more you knowCongratulations! You’ve managed to master search marketing and display retargeting. But now you have a new product reveal coming up and want to make a bigger push into awareness and demand generation. There are a handful of premium content sites out there that seem to fit your goals. You’ve reached out to the sales rep listed on a site and now you’re on the phone.

But what should you ask?

This scenario is a common one among small- to-medium-sized advertisers. I’ve been asked more than a few times if the deal they have negotiated is a good one. Here are a few questions to ask so that you might feel better about the deal.

Do You Sell Any Inventory Via Ad Networks or Exchanges?

Most publishers cannot possibly monetize every impression on their site. In the past they turned to ad networks and, in more recent times, exchanges to sell what remains after the premium deals scoop up the better inventory. Some publishers are lucky enough to sell most of their ad space direct. But there are many more that turn to secondary sources in order to unload the glut of impressions. In these cases, you might be able to secure good inventory through the secondary source and save yourself budget for other tests.

Many times I have asked this question, and the sales person didn’t seem like they wanted to answer (better to be honest because I would rather hear the real story). Other times they would tell me that while they did sell remnant through an ad network, I could still secure a direct deal at “better than rate card” pricing. Simply asking this question can give you a bit of leverage.

What’s “Better Than Rate Card”?

An impression is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. When a publisher tells me their Run of Sports section is worth a $55 CPM, depending on the situation, I might tell them more power to you if you can get that price. This question relates back to the first question I would ask. If impressions will be released to an ad network and sold for $4, but their “rate card” says $55, you can tell that there might be room to move here. The bottom line here is that you can help to set the rate. But you have to ask first.

What Is Your Audience Mix?

This might seem like a pretty basic question, but I have heard stories of advertisers buying based on site content without understanding that the audience wasn’t even close to their target demo. It’s not only important to understand the audience for the match with your product, but to also make sure the banners and messaging fits as well. You also might gain additional marketing insight based on a successful campaign. Maybe you never would have known 35-54-year-old schoolteachers loved your outdoor widget.

What Else?

Most of what I have learned over the years simply comes from experience. There’s really no magic formula to understand premium buying.  But don’t be afraid to ask questions.  The More You Know…

1 Comment

  1. Terry Whalen May 17th, 2013

    …friggin’ awesome graphic…

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Sean Nowlin
Sean Nowlin has worked in the sales and marketing industry since 2000. Before joining 3Q Digital in February 2012, he spent three years running display campaigns for Progressive Insurance, a top-10 digital advertiser. Sean’s display expertise consists of managing premium publisher relationships, ad networks, Demand Side Platforms, ad verification, and Online Behavioral Advertising compliance. He has a B.A. in Marketing from Cleveland State University and an M.B.A from Weatherhead School of Management – Case Western Reserve University. Sean enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, loves technology, and is a die-hard Cleveland sports fan (Indians, Browns, and Cavs). Sean's insights on display have appeared on several well read outlets, including,, and