Inside the Economist Group’s Ad Network Play

The Economist has a large, loyal readership. That doesn’t mean they only read The Economist.

So The Economist Group last year launched a business unit called Ideas People Media, which manages the Ideas People Channel, a vertical network of more than 50 sites listed by readers of The Economist as their favorite destinations for topics ranging from business to globalization. The network, which runs display and mobile ads, reaches more than 25 million Web users in the U.S. and 37 million globally every month. It runs ads on sites like Kiplinger’s, International Business Times and The Technology Review.

“It all began with an audience study conducted by The Economist,” said Stephane Pere,vp and head of Ideas People Media. “We discovered that what readers have in common is not their demographics but their mindset, the way that they think.The Economist is their favorite destination but not the only one. When we sourced these favorite destinations, we realized we had the opportunity to build an ultra premium offer in the ad network space.”

Premium content ad networks became popular in recent years, with companies as diverse as MTV Networks, Forbes and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia creating alliances with similar sites to grow their reach. There’s a need, according to Pere, for a quality and sensibility filter in the ad-buying process.
“Today with the rise of targeting solutions and programmatic buying through ad exchanges, marketers have lost the meaning of audience,” said Pere. “Through cookies, data is used for targeting, yet cookies are not readers. What is the point of targeting if an ad displays in a cluttered, irrelevant or inappropriate editorial environment?”
That gap between editorial quality-vetting and the rapid advance of bidding technology is helping to keep branding dollars offline. When marketers have better control of the online environments where they place their ads,  Pere believes, the more willing they will be to entrust blue-chip branding strategy to publishers.
“To fill the gap, there needs to be more online branding solutions,” said Pere. “Let’s face it, it is still easier and cheaper to buy TV and marketers love the emotional engagement that sight, sound and motion can create. Until the technology exists for brands to vet the online video content where their pre-roll is running, they will continue to leverage the digital properties of their TV buy.”
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