Do We Revisit Audience-Based Buying Models?

A lot of buying we've been doing lately hasn't been predominantly against psychographics, interests or lifestyles, but predominantly against demographics with interests and lifestyles functioning as qualifiers.  Context still matters a heck of a lot, but in the end, clients are measuring delivery via Reach, Frequency & GRPs.  Putting aside the relative merits of the buying models for a sec, can we take a look at what an audience-based online currency would look like? Most sites have the ability to frequency cap.  Instead of calling them up and asking how many gross impressions a site can get in a given content area, what if I were able to ask them what type of reach they could deliver at a 3X frequency?

The quantitative portion of media planning would probably get easier for clients who plan against demos.  After a while, we'd have reasonably stable Cost Per Points to work with, once vendors started selling this way and got used to it. Networks would get a fairer shake.  Entities that could roll up the long tail, or portals with wide and deep content, would compete with one another on a more level playing field - at least as far as demographic delivery is concerned.  Plans against demos would take less time to put together.

In the past, I've said that moving toward demographics would sell the Internet short.  By and large, that's true if the audience-based model replaces the impression-based one currently in use.  But if advertisers had a choice of buying models, it would make online easier to measure, easier to plan and more acceptable to advertisers who buy on demos.  The folks who "get" the advantages of the impression-based model could continue to buy that way.

I think it's time to look at this again.  We certainly have in the past, and most of the technology to do this exists today.  The big questions would be:

  1. Could comScore and Nielsen be able to project demos from content areas more granular than that reflected in current data?
  2. What would we post against?  Actuals from the server or something from comScore or Nielsen?
  3. What would be required on the adserver side to manage demand/allocations between impression-based and audience-based campaigns?