Early on in my agency career I wrote a 50-some page comprehensive guide to all of the biggest publishers and networks on the web. Written in a world before DSPs, SSPs, and Exchanges, the guide included Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Collective, ValueClick, Specific Media, 24/7 Real Media, Interclick, and dozens of others. It took me weeks to complete. The purpose of the document was to educate our end-clients about the publisher and network universe and to help them understand how we made digital media buying decisions. It was color printed on high quality paper, spiral bound, and distributed to all of our biggest clients.
In the back of the guide, I placed a glossary of terms that served as a cheat sheet to help our clients decipher publisher and network sales pitches. Next to the word “Premium” I placed the following description:
“A meaningless term used by publishers and networks to deceive potential buyers and imply a false sense of quality.”
Looking back, that may have been a bit rough, but, at the time, it felt about right. At that point in my agency career I hadn’t quite grasped the concept of “direct sold” vs. “remnant” and I had never even heard the terms “Class 1” or “Class 2” inventory. My ignorance here certainty wasn’t from a lack of contact with publishers and networks. Actually, a large portion of my education about online advertising came from the advertising sales community. I received at least 50 meeting requests per month and met with, on average, five sales reps per week. Out of the ~250 sales pitches I received each year, probably 99% none of them included the word “Premium” without any further explanation about the definition of the word. The funny thing about words is, the more we hear them the less they mean.
I know that many people who say the word “Premium” have, in the back of their minds, some technical definition of the word that they hold as fact. The problem here is that these individually held definitions rarely map accurately to anyone else’s definition of the word. “Premium” has been so tattered and abused over the years that it no longer has any legitimate place in digital advertising.
Let’s take a cue from other industries here:
Premium means exactly the same thing in advertising as it does in every other industry: