How female-focused publisher The Stylist Group doubled programmatic ad yields

The Stylist Group has doubled its programmatic advertising yields and increased its header-bidding revenue by 30% year over year, according to the publisher.

Prior to last October, the DC Thomson-owned publisher had grappled with several common publisher challenges: how to increase the amount of targetable ad inventory it could offer, specifically on mobile devices from which the majority of its traffic comes, and offset flat header-bidding revenue growth.

To do so, the publisher switched its data management platform to one provided by Permutive that favors first-party cookies. As a result, the publisher claims it can now target 100% of its audience compared to the 45% that was previously available, and which didn’t account for mobile, which comprises 75% of Stylist’s total audience traffic.

That has opened up the volume of impressions Stylist can offer advertisers to between 6 million and 9 million monthly impressions, depending on peak traffic periods, according to David Hayter, programmatic, data and technology director at The Stylist Group.

Programmatic display ad CPMs — which include open marketplace bidding, private marketplace deals and programmatic guaranteed deals — have doubled from £2.20 ($2.80) to £4.43 ($5.64), added Hayter. Open marketplace header-bidding revenue has increased 30% year over year as a direct result, after a period of flat growth, he added.

“This has totally transformed how we can use data and the speed at which we can do things,” said Hayter. “The goal was to boost our display ad revenue. Previously, we just weren’t comfortable with the amount of data we had on audiences, and our sales teams weren’t confident with the scale of our audience segments.”

Now, the publisher can go into the weeds with its audience insights looking at data such as whether people’s site behavior changes depending on which browser they use, what types of articles they read and whether their scroll depth correlates to how they interact with the site.

Insights like this have also helped boost rebookings of branded content deals because of the more sophisticated reporting data the company can provide as well as better targeting. One specific advertiser increased its campaign investment by 50%, though Hayter wouldn’t reveal specifics for the average increase of deal value. “It’s from a decent base,” he added.

Integrating the Permutive DMP into Stylist’s Facebook pages and other social platforms has also helped boost referral traffic for branded content links, said Hayter. The publisher doesn’t measure the users on Facebook itself but can target lookalike audiences on the platform, as well as others including Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. Tests have shown an average 44% uplift in click-through rates on social media posts from people clicking on links to branded content on social platforms and arriving at the site, said Hayter.

With third-party cookies on the decline, most publishers are actively exploring how to better use their first-party data. Permutive’s tech is built on the use of first-party, rather than third-party cookies, which has provided an additional incentive for publishers desperate to improve the targeting capabilities and measurement of mobile inventory. “The fact it’s all based on first-party cookies was a huge factor. Before we had a major issue in that we had no idea who they [our audience] were on mobile,” added Hayter.

To combat print advertising decline and reduce reliance on display digital advertising, which is dominated by Google and Facebook, publishers have diversified revenue streams in earnest. The Stylist Group is no exception. The publisher now has a live-events revenue stream and in April launched its own gym. The downside is that different technologies have been used to execute each product offering, whether it’s advertising, affiliate, e-commerce or other revenue streams. That’s why most publishers are gunning for ways to unify their data across different products and technologies to create what they refer to as a single customer view.

All DMP audience data is now fed into a warehouse, which ingests and unifies it to give a clearer view of how users behave across the publisher’s different devices and technologies that it uses for ad serving, e-commerce and other revenue streams.

“Advertising was the No. 1 revenue channel for a while. Then publishers decided to diversify and so had point solutions, and they never connected the dots between those technologies,” said Amit Kotecha, marketing director for Permutive. “Now many publishers are talking about unifying their data and then using it for insights and decisions. That’s when you can understand the average revenue per user, so they can know which levers they can pull to make revenue.”

By isolating how an individual interacts with its content, ads and multiple products across devices The Stylist Group plans to estimate the average revenue generated per user and identify potential patterns.

“That will help us understand, for example, whether a person isn’t worth targeting an ad to but would be more interested in a gym class or an event, so we can target them with a message,” added Hayter.

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