It’s All About Data: How Magazine Media Wins the Digital Advertising Challenge
In an ever-competitive landscape, user IDs and cross-platform tracking are the true measures of your brand’s worth.
It’s not just the money. The battle for ad dollars among the oligopoly of Google/Facebook/Amazon and everyone else, is as much about the advantage in data and the cross-channel access to consumers the major platforms continue to exert over media. Core to these platforms’ strength is how they can leverage cross-device logins that allow for easy tracking, regardless of which screen a user is on.
The appeal to advertisers of having deterministic cross-channel access to consumers is clear, according to Kara Scagnelli, VP/group director, media at agency DigitasLBi, who tells Folio:, “Agencies and advertisers continue to push boundaries to deliver the most relevant experiences for consumers, and the inability to track and offer personalization across all channels will become more of a barrier for those not willing to adapt.”
While magazine media brands have been trying to build more reliable cross-channel solutions for their clients, Scagnelli notes, “Access to first- or second-party data and deeper measurement will continue to be at the forefront of planning at all layers of the funnel, which is where Google, Facebook and Amazon continue to evolve and either invest in technology or break down walls to enable such opportunities.”
Magazine media brands recognize the imperative for more reliable cross-channel tracking and are starting to address the market need more directly. But in order to maintain maximum reach and access, major media generally avoid requiring readers to register and log in on every screen they use, and so the solution to universal identification of the audience are often complex and involve a host of partners and technologies.
Mark Crone, Bonnier’s senior director of email and database marketing, says, for instance, “We utilize a DMP to ID users across channels and then push those audiences into ad serving platforms inside and outside our network. We also track some users manually and with external partners. In Q1, we will begin utilizing an additional platform giving us a more complete view of each customer, and we will be configured to facilitate the identification and activation on a more automated basis.”
Meredith Corp. heeds the challenge as well. “I do believe that identity and particularly cross-platform identity is a challenge for publishers relative to the platforms,” says Alysia Borsa, the company’s chief marketing and data officer.
While she admits that major media will likely never reach the high levels of deterministic identification as some platforms, Meredith has a three-pronged approach to registering and logging in more users. Email and newsletters remain the biggest driver for using the email address as a keystone in identifying user activity across content. As well, utility is key to registering users, she says, citing recipe collections, shopping lists, and the its Baby Names app are strong drivers of ID collection. And, of course, signing up for fitness challenges and contests is a perennial list builder.
Cross-channel identification is key to frequency capping and sequencing/timing of advertising messages to the same user, Borsa says. Among advertisers she is seeing increased demand for tying web to mobile to shopper marketing. Meredith’s hugely popular AllRecipes site and app are among the company’s strongest tools in tying together online, mobile and even in-store experiences in real-time. The app can utilize a user’s location to feed them real-time sales in nearby stores, suggest ingredients for the recipes being accessed and even add items to an Amazon Fresh cart for near-time delivery.
Still, Borsa recognizes issues within the landscape, and indicates publishers need help in cross-channel tracking. “The reality is we are going to need to partner and work with vendors to supplement our identity solutions. Meredith is looking at consortiums like the DigiTrust initiative and OpenID, among others, that standardize login’s and universal identification across publishers.”
Time Inc. has been growing its publisher ID program all year, says Judith Hammerman, SVP of data commercialization and programmatic solutions. “We collect names and addresses and email, and it’s tied to a consumer ID,” she says.
Better yet, it doesn’t decay like a standard cookie but instead registers “every article they read, every newsletter and every subscription they are buying.” This allows the publisher to achieve some of the famed functionality of platforms in onboarding advertiser data.
“We have a unified ID and can partner with other data providers to enhance and ingest advertiser customer data and match that to a user.”
Hammerman admits that Time Inc. is still in the early stages of growing and activating on this publisher ID. But the exciting part points beyond simple tracking and re-targeting, she argues. Ultimately, the value of cross-device tracking comes in the new insights it renders and anticipating user needs.
“As we develop analytics and insights, we don’t look at just a flat list of what the consumer has done but can start to predict. That becomes very exciting. It gives us the flywheel of insights, activation and measurement.”
And even when you can tap the same user across screens, activation can be a challenge adds Bonnier’s Crone. Campaigns are often working within tight time frames.
“But particularly in vertical markets that one-and-done approach often does not fit the model of reaching the same use across channels while they are still in market. This requires a longer timeframe to provide a more ‘drop-like’ approach and is certainly a paradigm shift.”
Beyond Breadth: Selling Depth
Publishers now recognize that cross-channel ID are table stakes in competing with platform hegemony, they also stress the need to leverage what they argue are their own endemic advantages over the digital oligopoly.
“Legacy publishers actually have a foot up simply because we have had and developed a known relationship with our consumers, called subscriptions,” says Hammerman. “I can tell [an advertiser] the kind of offers the recipient has responded to and use that terrestrial address and start to tie it in with what has been an unknown consumer online. We can capture that and store it into one consumer record.”
“The value is in the robustness of the profiles we bring,” adds Borsia. “It is not about the platform, but the consumer.”
Meredith focuses on two different profiling models. The “persistent profile” builds on interests and life stages, but the “real time” profile understands when she “needs to get dinner ready for the kids or plan a birthday party.”
“You are not always the same person and have different need states,” Borsia says.
Tying that deeper, geo-specific profile to in-store behaviors becomes a unique market advantage. “We have strong relationships with CPG and pharma to be able to show where there was either sales lift or script lift,” she says. “We work with location providers to show in-store traffic.”
Meredith has gone even further in linking print and online media to offline behaviors. Its “sales guarantee” program uses a partnership with Nielsen and proprietary solutions to show sales lifts on campaigns. “In shopper marketing we see 4 percent sales lifts from that,” Borsia says.
Being able to see “the next level down” of consumer lives than advertisers can get from the platforms has become key to magazine media’s online value proposition.
“The opportunity for us is that bigger more strategic deal as opposed to many little IO and transactional campaigns,” Borsia says. “We have been very successful in building out strategic partnerships of sharing data and insight up front to help them set roadmaps and strategies.”
Driven largely by the ease of buying on platforms and the breakneck pace of programmatic exchange markets, much of the battle for digital budgets has been over the immediate, one-off display campaign. In some ways, publishers are still trying to reassert a more traditional role magazines had with advertisers before the digital revolution—telling them more than they already know about their target consumer.