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The Goals

  • Improve operating margins and overall profitability.

The Approach

  • Increase programmatic investment across open auctions and programmatic direct.

The Results

  • Better margins.
  • Better-targeted ads.
  • A more operationally-efficient sales force.

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Published March 2016

Demand Media owns and operates popular content sites eHow, LIVESTRONG.com, and Cracked. In late 2013, the company decided to make the ad inventory on these flagship properties available programmatically. By partnering with DoubleClick Ad Exchange, Demand Media was able to monetize inventory across devices — from computers, tablets, and mobile phones — not just on the open exchange, but also via programmatic direct solutions.

With a deeper programmatic investment, they were able to serve better-targeted ads on their sites, improving advertiser results as well as their own margins.

Serving the right ad to the right person at the right time

eHow, LIVESTRONG.com, and Cracked are very different sites with one important similarity: each provides engaging and useful content directed at a unique audience. “People visit our sites with very specific intentions, whether it’s beginning a new workout regimen on LIVESTRONG.com or researching home improvement projects on eHow,” says Angela Kinsella, Senior Director of Media Sales and Operations at Demand Media. “This rich insight into user interests and behavior uniquely positions us to help advertisers reach the audiences they care about in the right moments with the right messages across screens.”

Doubling down on programmatic

Up until 2013, Demand Media leveraged a heavy direct ad sales force with national sales groups in major markets to focus on large-scale sponsorships. They also used an indirect monetization strategy that largely relied on selling standard IAB ad units on open exchanges.  Today, Demand Media employs a team of programmatic specialists in addition to direct sellers who act as brand evangelists on behalf of their properties.

Given the scale of their operations and appeal of their audience to programmatic buyers, Demand Media recognized an opportunity to turn programmatic into a strategic advantage for their business.

As programmatic evolved to give publishers more flexibility in how they transacted with advertisers, Demand Media delved further into programmatic monetization. They decided to go beyond the open auction to enable programmatic direct solutions like private auctions and preferred deals that would allow them to sell more complex ad executions.

The success of this strategy, however, hinged on partnering with a technology provider that could keep pace with their evolving business needs.

The search for an SSP

Kinsella shares, “When we were thinking about creating our own programmatic product, we wanted to create something differentiated from the open exchange. The open exchange is great for site-level standard IAB ad units. But we also wanted a partner that would help us offer guaranteed programmatic executions to clients with more granular content targeting, and other high-impact ad units.”

This resulted in an exhaustive request for information (RFI) with a number of solution providers. During the process, every aspect of a provider was scrutinized—from the quality of its advertiser network, to its sales management operations, to its billing and reporting capabilities, to the ease of creating private marketplaces and working with advertisers within them.

DoubleClick Ad Exchange — enabling better targeting and results through the private exchange

After a careful evaluation, Demand Media chose DoubleClick Ad Exchange for their private marketplace executions. 

As a business that is steeped in programmatic, it is important to have partners that continuously improve upon their services and make it easier to work with advertisers. DoubleClick does just that.

Angela Kinsella, Senior Director, Media Sales and Operations, Demand Media

Kinsella shares an example of how Ad Exchange and private exchanges have empowered them to deliver better targeting to advertisers. “Before we had a private exchange,” she says, “a telecom company might have done a run-of-network buy across all of our properties and paired that with heavy audience targeting. Now, with our private exchange powered by Ad Exchange and our proprietary audience data, we can say, ‘Let’s connect you with Hispanic millennials with cell phone plans who are technology intenders viewing content on eHow in Español on their mobile phones.’ The targeting becomes that much more granular.”

A more efficient sales organization

With this deeper programmatic approach, Demand Media's sales teams were able to optimize their efforts. They shifted their focus from time-consuming negotiations with all of their buyers to highly-customized deals (many with programmatic components) with their largest buyers. Sales teams ramped up on programmatic and quickly learned how to explain its value to advertisers, both qualitatively and quantitatively. They adopted a new lexicon, selling buyers against key performance indicators (KPIs), including those for audience targeting, backend conversions, and more.

Looking toward the future

In the constantly evolving digital landscape, it’s critical for Demand Media to stay nimble. They are constantly refining their sales structure and marketing approach to match current industry trends. “The next step for us is definitely native advertising,” Kinsella says. “We’re not just talking about native ad units being repurposed by a native demand-side provider. We also want to create custom native content that can be monetized and distributed programmatically for brands.”

To succeed, Demand Media needs a partner that can keep up with their goals and pace of innovation. Kinsella concludes, “As a business that is steeped in programmatic, it is important to have partners that continuously improve upon their services and make it easier to work with advertisers. DoubleClick does just that, including us in beta projects, and moving fast on areas of the business we care most about: native, video, and capturing the true value of our audience.”

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Demand Media, Inc. (NYSE: DMD) is a diversified Internet company that builds platforms across its media (eHow, LIVESTRONG.com.com and Cracked ) and marketplace (Society6 and Saatchi Art) properties to enable communities of creators to reach

passionate audiences in large and growing lifestyle categories. In addition, Demand Media’s content marketing solutions (studioD) and diverse advertising offerings help advertisers find innovative ways to engage with their customers.

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