Condé Nast’s Programmatic Play: A Trifecta Of Brand Safety, Scale And Data

Condé Nast’s Evan Adlman will speak at AdExchanger's upcoming PROGRAMMATIC I/O New York conference on October 25-26 on a panel titled "Data Accuracy And The DMP."

Until recently, buyers who wanted to access Condé Nast’s ad inventory programmatically struggled to find enough impressions to buy.

“The perception when I joined was that there wasn’t much scale there, and it was overly sold out,” said Evan Adlman, Condé Nast’s VP of programmatic, who joined in early 2016.

Adlman has worked to change that reputation. He revamped the publisher’s ad stack and added header bidding to give buyers greater access to inventory.

To make it even easier for buyers to find what they want, the company’s premium programmatic offering also carves out inventory that exactly fits buyers’ bidding requirements, giving them higher win rates and reducing the perception of being constantly outbid.

“Our clients typically see response rates in the bid requests 10 times higher than in a standard private marketplace,” Adlman said.

The company’s sales team also continues pushing the premium context that advertisers get when they buy on sites such as Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair and Vogue. The publisher is seeing greater traction with advertisers concerned about brand safety and content adjacency.

“Historically, programmatic got the bad end of the stick as the cause of non-safe environments,” he said. “Today, context and placement play a big part in any type of media buy.”

Adlman talked with AdExchanger about how Condé Nast is using tech and data to bring advertisers to Condé Nast’s portfolio – programmatically.

AdExchanger: With so many incremental ad dollars going to Facebook and Google, how do you see publishers like Condé Nast competing to win those dollars? 

EVAN ADLMAN: Brand-safe environments and context and placement are extremely important today. In a news feed, they don’t know what’s above or below it. We have subscribers to our brands. We know how they consume and interact with content. By leveraging 1010data, we can look at the purchase behavior of consumers throughout the portfolio.

Quality programmatic video inventory tends to be the top of every trader’s wish list. Why has it been such a tough thing for buyers to get and for publishers to offer? 

One, buyers can’t find enough premium video inventory in the market that fits the needs of what some are looking for today. The Condé Nast Entertainment team has a strong focus on building partnership deals that enable us to scale the content we create and give advertisers brand-safe content to buy against.

Two, I think the ad stack that people run sometimes inhibits the ability to transact the way the buyer wants to transact. In 2018, we are focusing on leaning into programmatic video, now that we have a new ad server stack for video.

We needed video to support parts of our business that span past programmatic. A lot of our advertisers require 100% share of voice on a page when they do a buy with us. If that’s not managed within a single ad server, it’s difficult to guarantee.

When advertisers pulled spend from YouTube and Google due to brand safety concerns earlier this year, did you see more dollars flowing to you?

We saw dollars flow to us as a result of that, and not just around video. There were buyers that pulled away from many technologies to use other platforms to buy, and that created opportunities for premium publishers like Condé Nast to take advantage of it.

The largest footprint of our content is across social and YouTube, and we have been able to provide access to that inventory in a transparent way, where the buyer feels comfortable and knows what they are buying when they buy it.

You’ve worked in ad tech and publishing. Do you think there is a resetting of that relationship going on, as ad tech partners lower their fees and become more transparent about costs?

As a market, we’ve grown, and the tech that supports header bidding has matured. We’ve taken advantage of that, and we’re trying to leverage a server-side header bidding integration whenever possible, though sometimes integrating across 22 brands can be difficult.

We saw discrepancies in the 20% to 30% range that have gotten to sub-single digits when we went from client side to server to server. We work with Google, we do work with Amazon and we work with Index Exchange [on the client side for premium programmatic] today.

Have you been expanding which formats you offer programmatically – whether it’s native, video or sponsored content?

Last year’s rollout was about getting the house in order and offering standard ad units at the volume that buyers want to transact at. Over the past six to eight months, we’ve focused on enabling programmatic executions for our high-impact ads, like our Crown unit, Parallax unit and takeovers. And we’re working with providers that offer programmatic guaranteed executions to enable things like cost-per-day sponsorships.

What have you done in terms of data?

One of the capabilities we launched last year was access to our first-party data for segmentation and targeting in programmatic deals – 50% to 60% of the premium programmatic deals that we set up will leverage our first-party data. We’ve also really pushed the integration of the acquisitions we’ve done over the past two years. One of them is 1010data, which happened at the end of 2015, and then the recent acquisition of CitizenNet, which gives us access to social data.

What’s a good example of how advertisers are using your data?

The conversations have multiplied. A lot of customers have talked to us about database matching, using Google Audience Lists or a third party. If there is a segment they are looking to reach or negatively target, we can sync our databases, and we have the match rates to allow it. And if for some reason match rates are not high, we have partners to help us.

I would like to continue down the road of audience matching. Putting together deals with the inventory of the audience the advertiser is trying to reach – whether they are using their data or ours – is where I would like to see the business grow more.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

 

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