Lenovo global digital boss: Too many marketers are paying to reach the wrong audiences online

Gary Milner

Gary Milner

The chief global digital marketer for computer brand Lenovo has warned that brands need to check premium publishers are delivering on basic promises such as achieving the right geolocations for their campaigns.

Speaking at the ANA Advertising Financial Management conference in Boca Raton, Florida, Gary Milner told the forum about his frustration with some online delivery, noting how even campaigns bought from major publishers were not being delivered correctly.

“It’s not just with programmatic, but also on premium inventory,” said Milner, noting that despite some programmatic exchanges having a reputation for poor delivery this error had occurred with a major US publisher.

“It was only 10% of the inventory, but it was 20% of the cost that was being served to the wrong geography.” 

“We were serving ads (on a US campaign) to people coming in from India and Australia,” he said. “The important point here was that all of that was in the agency contract with the publisher – they were not to serve outside the country – but we had no way to monitor and enforce that.”

LtoR: Milner and Whitney Low warned marketers to check results

LtoR: Milner and Whitney Low warned marketers to check results

Lenovo is the world’s second largest computer manufacturer, and Milner today showed the audience how its crackdown on key digital issues such as viewability, brand safety and geolocation had dramatically improved the effectiveness of its online advertising spend.

“Brands need to ask themselves about the brand safety issues: are you running on the right sites (and) against the right material?” he asked.

“Is your ad being seen at all? Is your ad being shown to a bot? There are a lot of ads being shown to bots. All of these things affect performance and it has a causal impact on your brand and, you may not realise it, but it will impact your business.

“If only 15-20% of your ads (are meeting standards) that could have a much bigger effect than probably your agency negotiations or costs.”

Milner took the room through a test it had done in 2014 which revealed issues in all three areas and that put it in the 15% bracket.

“When we ran a test, 9% of impressions did not meet safety standards, 2% were fraudulent – which isn’t bad, we had one company, who will remain nameless, who had 65% fraud on their campaigns and only 5% were not geo-compliant.


“The US [operation] was running their campaign through a premium vendor where 5% went through one publisher – and that was 20% of our total media buy.”

Milner told the room that they had now put in place solutions, including using Integral Ad Science, to monitor such key areas of concern and provide regular reporting and prevention.

“We put a solution in place that now monitors those things”, he said. “For example, we monitor what percentage of ads we block from being served and then we monitor how much money we are saving by blocking against, say, fraudulent ads.

“We have had an almost 200% increase in viewability and a 20% decrease in both unsafe ads and in fraud all the while achieving a seven-times return. For every dollar we put in we get $7 back.”


Milner told the room that like many marketers around the world he was rapidly increasingly his media spend in programmatic advertising, but he needed to know that the money wasn’t being wasted.

“When we look at the commodisation of media buying, then programmatic (for us) is probably 50% of the media buying mix or more in digital.

“There are a number of areas where people are probably right to be concerned. One of the biggest areas of importance is your attention to detail. ”

Nic Christensen in Boca Raton


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