Inside Reddit’s brand and agency roadshow to lure more ad dollars

Last month, Reddit sales executives visited OMD’s New York office. Armed with a new sales deck that described ad products like sponsored posts with video, examples of how they’ve driven business results for clients and data that showed its users are “heavy online spenders,” they delivered what seemed to be quite a traditional pitch from an ad-supported platform, according to Kerry Perse, U.S. director of social media for OMD. And there’s increased interest.

“Reddit’s had a big year. They’ve made serious design changes to boost desktop and mobile to make it a lot more premium feeling and help brands to picture themselves advertising there,” said Perse. “While we haven’t done much with them to date, we’ve had more clients, particularly in retail and entertainment, bring them up.”

Reddit is on a tear to show advertisers that the site is worth their dollars. But an agency roadshow is a new endeavor for the company. Thirteen years into its existence, Reddit is maturing to compete for the digital ad budgets of major advertisers. Over the last year, the company has made strategic hires like Time Inc. alum Jen Wong as COO, Spotify alum Leanne Doan as director of agency development and Spotify alum Jack Koch as head of insights and measurement. While its headquarters remains in San Francisco, the company has grown offices in New York and Chicago to support a larger brand partnerships team, and, as of June, it’s selling video ads on a cost-per-view basis. Later this year, Reddit will release its first “Year in Review” report on its user base, similar to Pinterest’s Pinsights, and new other buying and targeting methods in the ad platform.

Reddit’s advertising is small but growing. Revenue has tripled over the last years and grown by tenfold over the last five years, a Reddit spokesperson said. Reddit declined to share specific numbers.

The platform isn’t tracked by eMarketer, but representatives for agencies and brands said that clients have been willing to test more. Brandon Rhoten, CMO of Potbelly, said he worked on Reddit “a little” at his previous job in marketing at Wendy’s but has made the platform a priority since joining Potbelly.

“Reddit for a long time was the platform that was a bit scary for brands,” Rhoten said. “There was kind of no rules and not a lot of organization. It was banner ads that could appear to something terrible and didn’t have good measurement, but over the last few years, they’ve started to grow up and clean up and develop the platform.”

Rhoten said one obvious reason for an advertiser to consider Reddit is the scale. is the 18th-most-trafficked site in the world and among top six in the U.S., according to Amazon’s web traffic analyzing platform Alexa. Another statistic Reddit’s team has touted in its presentations to advertisers is its unique audience. A September 2018 comScore report showed that 65 percent of Reddit users are not on Pinterest; 43 percent are not on Snapchat; 33 percent are not on Instagram; 28 percent are not on Twitter and 17 percent are not on Facebook.

Wong has been speaking at industry events, meeting with clients and chatting with reporters to describe how Reddit’s audience is valuable.

“Unlike on Facebook where your identity is known but your interests are intimated, your interests are self-declared on Reddit. That’s an incredible signal for advertisers that nobody else has,” Wong said in an interview with the Young Presidents Association. Wong told Digiday that Reddit has “authentic word of mouth, mind hive for people deep in their categories.”

Despite the scale and attention, Reddit has a reputation as a brand-safety nightmare. Commitment to ensuring quality advertising on Reddit has been front and center of the presentations to agencies.

Reddit visited Socialyse, an agency under Havas, a few months back with a new pitch deck. That deck focused on the issue of brand safety on Reddit, and the platform’s brand partnerships team elaborated on the controls they have for clients to take an active role or passive during a campaign.

Reddit’s “really facing brand safety head-on,” said Noah King, svp, group director and global product lead of Socialyse. “That’s really important to us. Our whole positioning is around meaningful brands and meaningful media. It’s not about placing what’s cheap or what’s in fashion. We’re going where people are in the mindset.”

Perse of OMD said Reddit’s ability to turn off commenting on brand posts is a smart option for clients that want low risk. In addition to that, Reddit provides whitelisting and blacklisting tools. Reddit only allows ads on certain pages, called subreddits, of the site. They also allow brands to create their own keyword list and suppresses ads from appearing next to those.

Reddit also has made it simpler to buy ads. In April 2017, it launched a new self-serve ad platform with a cleaner interface and has continued to make it more straightforward and sophisticated for advertisers.

“We’re really excited how quickly they’re closing the ad product gap as well as the ad tech gap, rolling out a full programmatic buying tool, rolling out a self-service tool, leaned into the data in and data out,” King said.

Reddit’s “table stakes” of first-party offerings are more in order, King said. But it lacks third-party verifications that more mature platforms like Facebook, Google and even Snapchat have invested in for all advertisers. King said he hoped Reddit would partner with viewability partners and attribution providers. Koch, Reddit’s head of insights and measurement, is in charge of those efforts. Reddit has plans to introduce these types of partnerships in 2019, a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Reddit seems willing to invest in more hand-holding of advertisers.

“Reddit’s still in the stage where they want to work with the brand and make sure they fit in,” Potbelly’s Rhoten said.

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