Who Wants to be a Horizontal Network?

By Julia Casale-Amorim

In a recent article published by MediaPost, vertical networks have begun banding their inventory together to allow advertisers to perform cross-network buys.

Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like vertical networks trying to become more horizontal?

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a horizontal network. They are typically made up of several channels, each representing a different vertical, be it contextual or audience-based. In effect, a horizontal network can be viewed as a collection of vertical networks all wrapped into one. Advertisers have the ability to target campaigns across the entire network (RON), to a single vertical (i.e. Automotive, Women), or to a grouping of verticals (i.e. Women, Home, Travel).

One of the great advantages to a horizontal network is reach and secondly, breadth.

But what about the vertical network model as we’ve come to know it?

There is real value in the (traditional) vertical approach when your decisions aren’t being driven by factors like scale, reach and optimization, but are more centered on accessing an elusive niche audience through content that they have a real connection to and where customized placement programs, i.e. skins, takeovers, co-promotions play a big role in the overall structure of your plan.

So what is prompting this change in direction?

There has been no shortage of debate over the vertical vs. horizontal approach. Both models have merit. And doesn’t it all come down to your objectives as an advertiser? There is no right or wrong choice. No better or worse option… Our advice to clients has always been – try both, and continue with the one that delivers the best results for your particular campaign.

But, this recent move by vertical networks raises a question…is the model working? If it was, would they need to explore aggregate means of selling their inventory? Doesn’t that sort of go against the whole vertical philosophy?

I suppose there is an inherent flaw in vertical networks banding their inventory together and portraying themselves as a horizontal network, since the entire selling angle of a vertical network is that they’re a “close-knit group of sites centered on a particular topic.” If you adopt this horizontal-like approach, can you still call yourself a vertical network?

Only time will tell.

One thought on “Who Wants to be a Horizontal Network?

  1. Pingback: Green Dream » Blog Archive » Being a Creative Steward in a Ecosystem of Media Makers

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