Are You A Premium Brand?

I read something that the folks at OpenX released the other day in conjunction with Digiday.  It’s the results of a study on Programmatic Buying and how it affects premium publishers. Since 71% of publishers and buyers trade ads programmatically it’s a big deal. You can read the paper here.

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Having been a publisher of premium content I can tell you that I hated selling anything programmatically.  I wanted my sales folks involved directly with the buyer.  Not just so that we could get the premium CPM we felt we deserved but because we needed to earn that higher rate by doing a better job of meeting the needs of the client and delivering perfect service.  The study sums it up nicely:

Publishers, fearing the commoditization of the inventory surrounding their expensively produced content and painstakingly nurtured audiences, have every right to guard their investment. They want to make sure that any system that removes “friction” doesn’t also remove the distinction of their brand and the quality of their adjacencies, as measured by audience engagement. And, understandably, they want to preserve the professional relationships that forge the bedrock of their sustainable revenue growth.

Exactly.  But as the Digiday article states, premium is all in the eye of the beholder.  Which raised the issue I’ve been considering:  how do you define a premium brand?  Is it scarcity?  To a certain extent it is although there are plenty of Lexus cars around and that’s a premium brand.  Cost?  Maybe relative to other products in its class but coffee can be premium and it’s still relatively inexpensive.  One factor involved is positioning.  If you usually fly first class, being in business class seems cramped.  To a coach passenger, however, business class is premium.  Another is authenticity of some sort.  I was a publisher of hockey content – there are lots of people who do that.  I was the only official league outlet, however – that meant scarcity, authenticity, and in our minds a greater worth.

I could go on here for another 1,000 words but the notion of “premium” is one that’s going to become even more front and center as content becomes more commoditized.  I mean that not only in media buyers‘ minds but also in consumers’ minds.  It’s hard to ask consumers to pay a premium, either in money or in attention,  for an app or content or anything else if we can’t establish that premium status in their minds.

What do you think?

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