Lauren O' Keefe Hendricks
When I started working at Kargo three years ago, I was given one goal: to upgrade and expand the quality of our publisher inventory. The sole criteria at the time? Whether or not the title was a household name.
Kargo creates award-winning advertising creative for mobile phones, placed only within premium publishing sites on the mobile web, so in the marketplace, the quality of our publisher partners was perceived to be a measure of the caliber of our company overall.
When I first came on board, we had just over 30 publishing partners comprising around 200 properties. We had strong brand recognition with traditional print mastheads like Us Weekly and The New York Post, but to truly offer an alternative to the walled gardens, we needed to bring in new partners with more prestigious titles, a wider variety of content types and, ideally, a massive following.
We accomplished that in 2016, when we achieved an audience that consisted of 100% of the U.S. smartphone audience and we onboarded iconic content providers like NBC and Scripps among others. We continued to increase our supply throughout 2017, while maintaining the highest standards for brand safety and transparency, and in December relished becoming the first mobile ad tech company to achieve 100% Ads.txt compliance.
However, what we started noticing was that even with the unbeatable name recognition of our partners’ titles, the inventory was not always performing to rapidly changing industry expectations, which meant that the publishers were missing out on potential revenue opportunities. We realized then that pedigree alone was no longer sufficient to guarantee performance.
So, we started digging into which publishers were the best at bringing in advertising revenue and tried looked for the common denominators. What we discovered were four interrelated attributes that, when maximized, deliver higher performance (and ultimately, increased income) for the publisher as well as expanded reach for the advertiser. These are the factors that can best determine the efficacy of a publisher.
- Performance - Made up of a combination of Viewability, DCPM (Revenue/Ad Requests*1000), and Response/Win Rate
- Ad Product Mix - Determined by looking at what kinds of ads the publisher accepts. Is it only standard banner ads, or are they receptive to more mobile first creative? Additionally we considered whether they were open to Kargo’s full portfolio of ad formats or had restrictions that would limit what brands could buy.
- Scale - The number of ad requests sent through an SSP, not necessarily relative to the size of the publisher’s audience.
- Brand Safety - More than ever before, brand safety is a critical advertising issue. This is measured by looking at agency “block lists” as well as insights from industry experts.
After uncovering this data, we reexamined our publisher supply with fresh eyes. Some of our publishers were crushing it, like Scary Mommy. Many were performing adequately, but had areas that could be improved with the proper efforts, and some (regardless of legacy) had to go. We committed ourselves to helping the publishers who remained to better understand where there were opportunities to improve. This resulted in the development of a Publisher Scorecard, essentially a report card that shows where publishers need to place more attention.
Simultaneously, we started sourcing newer, smaller, more digitally-savvy publications that might not have a 100 year old masthead, but hit all the other criteria we were seeking. New titles that we’ve brought onboard include BBC, Distractify, Domino, Fashionbeans, Healthyway, BabyGaga, Venturebeat, CafeMom and many more. Not only have they met or exceeded our performance benchmarks, but we’ve had the added benefit of rounding out our reach within the millennial and millennial parent categories, two rapidly growing audience segments for brands.
So, how’s it been going? Since June when we adopted the new guidelines and launched the Publisher Scorecard, our average publisher rating has gone up four points, resulting in over fifty more advertising placements for each. Going into the holiday season, we’re expecting to see even greater increases, assuring that key holiday messaging is getting to more consumers and publishers get a nice little Christmas present themselves in the form of additional revenue.
Are you a publisher interested in joining Kargo’s premium editorial supply? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.