Context and the classified.

Liam Walsh writes: In a previous role I was graced with being responsible for writing display revenue on classified websites. Not the core revenue which is listings, but banner ads that might supplement these.
It was not an easy sell.
And the business unit owners were not easily convinced of the observation that it was a tough sell.
The challenge was indicative of a combination of two things.
-Context is extremely important for media placement.
The media industry is very conservative in defining what media is.Let’s look at Australia’s largest classified websites,, and Undisputed leaders in each category.

Each has a different reliance on display advertising. probably the highest and while it is an impressive business, it is somewhat hard to fail to sell advertising to mortgage providers on the biggest homes site.

Similarly has a natural advertising stream from auto manufacturers wanting to showcase new vehicles independent of dealerships. It is somewhat harder for of course, as their best fit customers are recruitment businesses who don’t really have money outside of listings of some kind.

Now at least two of these businesses wants to get more display advertising revenue and they want it from outside their core listing customers. They want it based on the targeting ability they can deliver.

They are, and are going to continue to find that this is extremely challenging and slow going.

The best illustration of this is by way of example. If one wanted to advertise a Panerai watch (for those of you that don’t know what that brand is, I commend you) then they would most likely target wealthy urban men.

Each one of these classifieds could very easily deliver this target segment. In real-estate, it would be via postcode and value of home. In cars, it would be luxury vehicles and in employment it would be executive positions.

Yet how many luxury brands of any product are advertised on realestate or seek executive? None or very little.

Classifieds can be highly targeted media vehicles yet they are not used this way, instead advertising on less targeted online opportunities, sites that are more expensive, sites that have more competitive clutter.

The problem is that the classified sites are not considered ‘media‘. The environment is not considered appropriate  for the advertiser brand. Put simply, the classified sites do not exist to derive revenue from display advertising, they exist for something else.

This advertiser decision making is seemingly irrational as the targeting advantage must surely outweigh any compromise about environment?

That may be the case, that the decision making is irrational, but examination of leading classifieds will show the same answer over and over and over. has made more progress that all the others but it has, by no means, cracked the targeting versus conundrum.

Ben goes on about how important context and from time to time I wonder what he is talking about but he speaks (or writes) a truth supported by the data.

I hope we move past context to include other targeting methods because impact is what we are supposed to be achieving, not maintaining a status quo.

 Ben Shepherd writes: I am a big believer in context, especially in the premium categories/audiences Liam speaks of above.

For me, classifieds sites don’t really offer much beyond their core business in terms of real cut through to audiences. Sure, there’s the argument that these sites have access to an elusive, high end audience with some interesting targeting options … but pretty much every site has a % that is high end.

Hotmail has a load of ABs. So has Foxsports. They also have a lot of Joe Public’s too. Hey, even the White Pages has a decent audience on paper – The problem with the White Pages is what does it stand for … and, are consumers in a frame of mind to be intercepted with advertisements unrelated to the business/individual they are searching for?

My feeling is for the next 24 months the best the classifieds can hope for outside of their natural fits (Auto: Cars, Petrol, Finance, Insurance), Real Estate (Finance, Conveyancing, Insurance, Renovations), Recruitment (Education, Recruitment Agencies) is remnant advertising and sophisticated network placements (ie retargeting etc – Drive/Adconion). The main reason – there is a massive amount of supply in the local market, way more ad inventory that we could possibly need … and the inventory pool keeps getting bigger and bigger … which should keep pushing the prices down on those sites that can’t show a clear point of difference.








4 responses to “Context and the classified.

  1. Gentlemen, an interesting point of view and a fundamentally correct one however you have missed the biggest issue of context in “display” advertising on these sites. Incidentally it is the same issue faced by Hotmail Yahoo Mail and the like. The context of these environments is that the person is there to look for a job or a car or a house and in the email example to send or respond to mail. The last thing they want to do in that frame of mind is click away from the very action they went there in the first place to perform!

    Much as I like Panerai watches I ain’t going to click on a Panerai ad when I’m trying to find a new job – indeed one could argue in Seek’s case that display advertising is somewhat redundant if the majority of people on the site are executives who are unemployed!!

    Clearly there is a recognition factor in having “seen” an ad as there is in any traditional electronic advertising placement such as TV but then that requires you to retarget and follow people once they’ve left the classified environment….something I understand is becoming more and more popular these days….

  2. good points Nick – exactly my thoughts!

  3. As someone who has spent years selling onto (or attempting to sell onto) 2 of the 3 sites Liam mentions, I almost shed a tear knowing that someone else has felt the frustration of having the largest in-market audiences yet the most insignificant share of budgets (disclaimer: in many cases not all).

    The issue stems all the way back to CTR as the measure of success or failure. Unfortunately the user is intent on their activities whilst on a classified site and generally you would see a lower CTR as a result. I recently pulled out some data from before during and after a major campaign by a prestige brand on Carsales. Without question the campaign positively affected the search and lead volumes generated for the classified listings for this brand. My point being if you solely look at the standard measurables you aren’t seeing the whole story – advertising to a relevant audience in contextual environments provides great value…assuming you don’t screw up the messaging.

  4. Pingback: GOODLINX: bloggers turn to print; marketers missing out with classified sites, how to win an SEO war, secrets of successful blogging « mUmBRELLA

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