In programmatic channels, quality does NOT go up with higher CPMs

It’s the same mix of crappy sites, and they will take whatever CPM you want to pay

Fresh off of the last two posts: 1) recommendation to target iOS devices, get 60% off on the CPM prices, and show ads to humans, and 2) if you’re going to buy through programmatic channels, why not try 1 cent CPMs, then it may be worth it, I am back with some more details about buying from programmatic channels vs buying from good publishers directly using programmatic technologies.

At the end of the 1 cent CPM post, I showed that even if you paid higher CPM prices, you’re not going to get higher quality, because it’s the same mix of crappy sites selling through programmatic channels. If you paid higher CPMs, they’d take your money just the same as if you paid them 1 cent CPMs.

Quality does NOT go up with higher CPMs in programmatic channels

The following chart has more fine grained price points from 0 - $0.50, $0.50 - $1.00 CPMs, etc. all the way up to $5 - $10, and $10 - $20 CPMs. What do you notice? There is hardly any noticeable differences in quality (or lack therefore). All of the dark red hovers in the 80% range. Again, all of this is purchased through programmatic, open exchange — it’s the same mix of crappy sites no matter what CPM prices you pay.

Also, data from shows that as we get further and further into the long tail, the percentage of sites that run ads gets smaller and smaller — down to about 1 in 10. That means most of the long tail sites don’t run ads. A small handful of “long tail sites” are fake or fraudulent sites, generating 100s of billions of ad impressions by fraudulent means — e.g. bot traffic, stacked ads, pixel stuffing, forced redirects, pop-unders, hidden ads, naked ad calls, etc. That’s what you’re buying when you buy large quantities at low prices - through programmatic channels.

Good publishers have real human audiences - PAY MORE for those

If you don’t care about showing ads to humans, and just want to buy as much quantity of ads as possible at the lowest possible price, you can skip the rest of this article. Just keep doing what you and your agency are doing right now.

If, however, you DO care about showing ads to humans, then buy from good publishers — those publishers who are not out to rip you off. The have real content meant for real human audiences. They have real costs for producing that content because they need to pay real writers/journalists and editors to ensure the quality and integrity of the content. Pay higher CPMs for those ad impressions. Even if you pay higher CPMs, you won’t need to buy as much quantity of impressions — so you may still save money overall.

In contrast the above chart of how bad the quality is, see what good publishers look like when monitored by FouAnalytics. As far back as 2016, when I did a study with major publishers in the U.S. you can see there is a lot of dark blue (humans) there, and limited dark red. Fraud bots are not rampant on these publishers sites because they do not buy traffic. And fraud bots are not going to waste their time causing pages to load on good publishers’ sites because they can’t make money from it. Fraud bots go to long tail sites that pay them for the traffic, because those sites have no human visitors and have to buy all their traffic.

If you want to show your ads to humans, buy direct from good publishers. You can still buy through programmatic channels, but be sure to ask the publisher for a dealID and which specific exchange they prefer to sell through. And target JUST that dealID on that exchange. That way you reduce most of the problem of “supply chain leakage” or domain spoofing where bad guys pretend to be that good publisher by lying about the domain.

Note my experiment below. I targeted one domain, without specifying which exchange. The data shows I got impressions for that domain through a dozen supply paths, some of which that website doesn’t even work with (faked inventory). When I targeted that domain and specified the 1 exchange that publisher preferred to work with, it cut out most of the supply path leakage. One step better than this is to target a specific dealID that the publisher set up, so you can ensure the most direct path to their real inventory.

So What?

Run some experiments, try some of the things I’ve tried and seen - e.g. target iOS devices only with no other parameters, buy programmatic ads for 1 cent CPMs, etc. Let me know what you find.