Is Email 2016’s Advertiser Panacea?

BY esbconnect

Reading articles, posts, and blogs on the state of online advertising in 2016, there are a lot of common issues affecting advertisers and agencies, and many that email could help with if, advertisers took another look at it.

Transparency & engagement

Too many buyers are in the dark as to where their ads are showing, and to whom – or even if their ads are visible on the page on which they are buying them. Buyers don’t always have the transparency that they want with regards to a site list, and are not sure whether users can see their ads on the sites they’re being purchased.

Email offers full transparency on the open rate of the emails sent out; and because the users who do open the emails have completed an action to do so, they are obviously engaged users – not merely people who have had an ad displayed on their screen (ok maybe 50% of an ad for 0.5 seconds).


Advertisers and agencies are understandably concerned with the potential for fraudulent or bot traffic. With an estimated USD$7bn (£5.33bn), or 25% of global online ad spend, lost to fraud every year, it’s clear that this is a big issue for advertisers.

Group M appointed John Montgomery as executive vice president of brand safety at Group M in August. As reported in campaign magazine: “We have some venerable brands to protect – our portfolio is weighted towards long-standing, valuable brands”, Montgomery explains. “As they move from the linear side of media to digital, they’re concerned about the vagaries of brand safety”, adding that Group M clients had “applauded” the group for taking the issue so seriously.

As a result of its direct relationship with the user via their address, email doesn’t suffer the same problems of fraudulent traffic. Email companies do have to negotiate spam filters; but this is an issue for the email marketing companies rather than the advertisers. When using email as part of an advertisers advertising campaign fraud isn’t a concern and advertisers can rest assured that what they bought will actually be delivered.

Behavioural targeting

As more data is available on users, following their online journey to help tailor advertising to fit their history is a natural evolution. This is costly for publishers to deliver; and this premium is naturally passed on to the advertiser and can make delivery of campaigns hard to scale.

Because of the ongoing relationship with the email addresses in our database, email offers deep levels of behavioural information on the campaigns with which users interact; and this data is used as standard to ensure that open rates remain strong. Couple that with the ability to layer DMP targeting over the send, and email offers very accurate behavioural targeting, resulting in open rates pushing as high as 35%. This level of targeting and engagement is hard to match with any other advertising medium.


Standard advertising performance on display advertising has remained consistent for around a decade; 0.07% has been the industry standard CTR for as long as anyone can remember. This figure must be acceptable for the industry, as it’s not stopped the growth in spend, but is very low by any standards. So, if a better level of engagement and response was readily available, surely it would be on everyone’s media plan? With standard click-through rates of 0.7% (10 times that of display, but still not stellar), and up to 20% for the best campaigns, email leaves display’s performance in the shade. Let’s just remember that email clicks are not accidental too, as they’re from an opened mail. Email offers the perfect way to ensure that the campaign’s performance doesn’t suffer with a lack of engagement and clicks from their target audience.

Cross channel

The growth of mobile use has been an ongoing challenge for publishers and advertisers alike. How to engage a user as effectively on a mobile as desktop is difficult. Click-through rates are high, but that is often due to fat thumbs. Users have a different relationship with their mobile device, viewing it as more personal than any other screen.

Publishers are seeing their audience move in huge numbers to mobile, representing a screen through which they have diminished CPMs and less ability to accurately attribute conversions. This is a challenge that, without sign-in data, is hard to reconcile.

The fact that 70% of emails are now opened on mobile devices merely makes the email providers’ data richer and more comprehensive. We can see which devices the user opens the emails on and so have cross-device details for each email address. The tracking on our ads enables us to attribute conversions accurately and feed back to the advertiser for complete transparency. Users opening an email on their mobile don’t feel like an ad is intruding into their personal space, either.

Ad blocking

Email ads are not subject to ad blockers in the same way that display ads are. If a user has an ad blocker on, it will not stop the creative showing in the email, unlike the display ads that would show on screens. Spam filters are email’s equivalent of ad blockers and are something that we are working to keep on top of. If we don’t, we don’t see billable delivery, it’s as simple as that.


Email has been the victim of the automation of the advertising process. With no RTB for email available, advertisers are forced to spend their marketing budget on display, in it’s many guises, and hope for better performance on their campaigns. ESB connect have launched their Marketplace which will be available via DSP soon; but is available now on the Email Switchboard site.

So, if you are looking for a straightforward, fraud-free, transparent, automated, cross-device, highly engaged, high-performance campaign – email may well have the solution. That’s as near to an advertising panacea that I can think of.


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