A recent POV in MediaPost triggered a visceral response. The Efficient Frontier of Display ROI: UGC, Porn, & Torrent Sites? draws an apt analogy between media buying and stock trading. In fact, in the context of all of the emerging tools in the display space (DSPs, exchanges, analytics), I agree that there are several parallels that can be made.
However, I adamantly disagree with the assertion that user generated content (UGC), porn (adult) sites, and torrent sites should be included on any type of media plan (re-targeting or otherwise). Despite the low CPMs, the content on adult sites is a completely inappropriate environment for any legitimate advertiser (DR- or brand-focused). Torrent sites are widely known to facilitate the practice of illegal file sharing – ask any marketer’s legal counsel about their view of sponsoring that content. And finally, two clicks in on imageshack.us provided some content that was at best extremely NSFW. The CPMs on these sites are low for a reason!
Frankly, I was amazed at the ads I was seeing after a few refreshes on the page. One of which was for a 200-year-old, high-end men’s clothing retailer whose flagship store is right up the block from Undertone headquarters on Madison Avenue. I’d be shocked if the brand manager for this conservative company was happy with this placement.
The good thing here, from my perspective, is that it seems that many advertisers know what’s going on, and are specifying that these types of sites be excluded from the plan from the start, as you mention. However it seems that some, as evidenced by the results of my imageshack.us experiment, are not.
It’s simply incorrect that advertisers should have to give up control and environment to drive results. There are companies (like Undertone) that are focused on delivering not only results, but in the highest quality environments. In the spirit of your finance analogies, call them the Berkshire Hathaways of online display: focused on only the best companies (sites) and, more often than not, beating index funds by a wide margin.