Conde Nast launches new ad program for performance marketers

Condé Nast has long boasted that advertisers that use Spire, the publisher’s data and ad targeting platform, get better bang for their buck. Now it’s guaranteeing that performance for any advertiser willing to spend the right amount.

On Thursday, the legacy publisher announced the launch of Prime Web, an advertising program that offers a suite of video and commerce-enabled ad units distributed across Condé Nast’s portfolio using Spire, which requires a minimum spend of $20,000. Those ads, which Condé builds for advertisers, can feature videos or links to multiple products that drive users directly to advertisers’ storefronts.

Advertisers willing to spend a little more — typically $250,000, though that figure is negotiable — will get Condé Nast’s guarantee of business results in key performance metrics ranging from store visits to increased sales, said Evan Adlman, Condé Nast’s svp of enterprise sales. If one of those high-priced campaigns doesn’t deliver, Condé will give the advertiser free impressions to make up the difference, Adlman said.

“It’s a pretty low barrier to entry,” Adlman added. “But we feel so strongly about the product, the units, as well as our ability to drive performance. The number one thing advertisers want is performance. We want to make sure we can open this up.”

As Google, Facebook and Amazon continue to dominate digital advertising — the three companies will claim around 70 percent of all U.S. digital ad revenue in 2019, according to eMarketer — publishers are trying to prove that they can drive business outcomes for marketers. Some, such as Hearst, have done that by spinning up data studios that can help advertisers identify new audience segments to target, or giving those advertisers more data about what its audiences think about advertisers’ products.

More broadly, the need to prove return on investment has forced publishers to spend more money on pricey attribution studies or forge more partnerships with measurement firms including Nielsen Catalina or Placed. While there has not been an uptick in advertisers insisting on guaranteed results in RFPs, performance advertising is more popular than ever before, said Todd Krizelman, founder of MediaRadar.

For the past year and a half, Condé Nast has had a measurement partnership with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, though the impact of Prime Web ads can be measured by almost any third-party measurement vendor, Adlman said.

Being able to deliver clear attribution will make a big difference in the success or failure of Prime Web. “It sounds like they’re setting themselves up for success if they’re going to be fully transparent,” said Michael Dobson, the head of marketplace at the media agency Cross Media, which hasn’t yet gotten Prime Web’s pitch. In the early going, Dobson said, he expects that Prime Web will resonate most with advertisers already spending with Condé Nast in other sectors, particularly print.

When Condé Nast first introduced Spire in 2016, executives framed it as a way for advertisers to target Condé’s audience across titles and on third party platforms, identifying new audience segments that might be good targets for advertisers’ messages. The peak of that scale strategy came in 2017, when Condé Nast joined up with Vox Media and NBCUniversal to create a kind of audience targeting Voltron, before exiting that partnership last spring.

Targeting elsewhere is still part of the focus; at the beginning of 2019, Condé announced that advertisers could use Spire to target those same audiences on YouTube as well.

Prime Web is part of a focus on proving that Spire can drive business outcomes using its own properties, which offer a great deal of scale by publisher standards; Condé Nast’s digital properties attracted 98 million monthly unique users, according to Comscore. 

The Prime Web units are part of Condé Nast Prime, a suite of high-end ad products Condé Nast debuted at its 2018 NewFront presentation. At its 2019 NewFront, Condé expanded Prime to include Prime Time, video ad inventory tied to Condé’s most popular content, and Prime Placement, a product placement offering that allows marketers to incorporate their products into Condé Nast’s shows.

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