When I worked at an ad network, many of our publishers wanted to be “blind” – that is, not identified as available inventory in our network. Let me give you an example: Yahoo might give an ad network some of its excess ad inventory to monetize. Yet Yahoo does not want other sales organizations out there telling advertisers, “Oh, I can get you on Yahoo inventory, buy from me instead of that Yahoo sales guy”. Yahoo wants the ad networks money and the network values high-quality, good performing inventory, so the best of both worlds is to be “blind”. The ad network promises not to use Yahoo’s name and Yahoo gives them the inventory on this “blind” basis.
As a product guy, I always respected the desire to be blind, but I always wondered how effective it was out in the field. People have to get paid and a lot of people will do what it takes. I generally imagined there was a fair amount of “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” that took place when agencies and network sales guys talked about inventory – “Let’s just say that I can get you a lot of inventory on sites about Yodeling”. It always seemed like there was a lot of potential for miscommunication about what was blind and what was not as well.
Now that I am in a product role as a company that is first party to a lot of inventory, this has tempered my thinking about a lot of network interactions: I don’t trust “being blind” as a panacea for channel conflict. I was already involved in a situation where one network that I gave inventory to on a blind basis told an agency that they had our inventory – we fired them the next day.
One of the amazing things about networks that don’t respect blind status is how the desperate sales guy – who may indeed close that one sale – thinks that it doesn’t get back to the publisher. OF COURSE IT GETS BACK TO THE PUBLISHER. Generally speaking, the agency has no horse in this race, so when the publisher asks why they aren’t getting a buy, the agency invariably tells them, “Network X said I could get your inventory through them”.
I would love to hear Ad Networks perspective on how they make sure that blindness is respected. Similarly, are there publishers out there that have a “system” to make sure that blindness is honored?