Why Vox Media Cares About Making Ads On Its Sites Perform Better

mike-hadgis-vox-mediaLet’s be honest: A/B testing is boring, but what about A/B testing on steroids?

Vox Media is juicing up its testing with “creative intelligence” released Thursday at the DMEXCO conference in Cologne, Germany. The feature lets it test thousands of ad variants against certain audiences.

“It can tell you if a creative is working better for someone coming from Facebook versus directly, and if it’s working with females 25 to 34 but not working for females 45 to 50. It layers in data to eliminate that risk,” said Mike Hadgis, Vox Media’s global VP of revenue and partnerships, to AdExchanger.

For example, a client featured about 10 different NFL players in its display creative but got a subpar .04% click-through rate. When the client revised the creative to use no more than two players and added their names, performance quadrupled.

“We help eliminate that waste, and the data gives us learnings and tools to go back to the advertiser about performance [details],” Hadgis added.

The tool will assist Vox Media as it seeks to expand its ad creative off its owned-and-operated properties while maintaining ad quality and performance. It rolled out a product called Concert earlier this year, which allows advertisers to expand campaigns onto Vox Media affiliates, and the first Concert campaigns are wrapping up at the end of Q3.

One major affiliate is NBC Universal, which invested $200 million in Vox Media last year. Sites such as NBC Sports, Today and SyFy show Vox Media ads, giving it a combined unduplicated reach of 150 million uniques.

Early findings indicate the ads perform as well as, and sometimes better than, ads on Vox Media’s own sites. To Hadgis, those results validate a recent study by Digital Content Next and comScore that showed ads on premium sites outperformed ads on run-of-the-mill sites.

While audience networks aren’t new ideas, Vox Media brings unique data and tech and – with creative intelligence – superior A/B testing, Hadgis said.

Vox Media publisher affiliates can also display Vox Media’s signature 1060-by-590 ad format, “Athena,” along with newer ad formats for mobile audiences, like a vertical video unit. (Half of Vox Media's audience is mobile, but that can rise to 80% during times like Sunday football on SB Nation.)

Across its network, Vox Media can automatically recalibrate ads based on insights from its homemade tech, optimizing within days instead of weeks. For instance, when a player in a fantasy football ad is injured, the ad’s performance also falters.

“He got a season-long injury on Sunday, and by Tuesday his creative plummeted eight times. We were able to stop serving ads with his image or ad in it within days,” Hadgis said, citing one recent example.

 

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